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St. James volleyball picks up first win of the season against Fairmont, falls to Waseca and St. Peter

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

On Thursday, the St. James volleyball program got into the win column against Fairmont at home, sinking the Cardinals 3-1 in four tightly contested matchups.

Prior to the match even starting, middle hitter Kelsey Grunewald was injured in pre-game warmups, forcing coach Jodi Geistfeld to shuffle her lineups before the opening serve.

In place of Grunewald, sophomore Lunden Swanson got the start for the Saints and made an immediate impact scoring the first point of the night for St. James.

The largest lead in the first set by the Cardinals was four held towards the latter part of the set at 20-16. St. James fought back and eventually tied the game at 20 after a Taylor Sodeman ace and tip from Alli Malmgren.

A pair of big points by Natalie Tonne pushed the Cardinals to the finish line of the first set 25-22.

In the second set, the teams traded fire once again.

St. James took an early edge 6-2, but Grunewald—who had returned midway through the first set— was taken out for good.

"She couldn't jump," said Geistfeld. "If you're going to play middle you're going to need to jump. And she said it herself 'I can't jump' so we took her out."

The Cards clawed their way back into the lead midway through the set on an ace from Brittney Mosloski.

Three straight Fairmont blocks put the Cardinals in command 19-16, However, a pair of unforced errors by the Cardinals and a Swanson block had the Saints back in front 22-20, prompting Fairmont to call a timeout.

Two points by the guests knotted the set at 22, but St. James tallied the final three points, evening up the score a one apiece with a 25-22 win.

Set three offered much of the same as the prior two. Neither team built a lead larger than St. James' four at 18-14.

Clinging to a 23-22 lead, Chloe Mickelson stepped up with a big kill, and a perfectly placed push by Maddie Brey had the Saints up 2-1.

In set four, Fairmont held an early 7-3 lead, but a trio of errors by the Cardinals put the Saints right back in it. The Saints eventually tied the score at 11, 12, and 14 before a 4-0 run by the Saints forced another Cards timeout.

Staying true to form, the team once again found themselves tied late in the set, first at 21 all, then at 22.

A kill attempt from Cassidy Schultz sailed long to give the Saints an edge. Mackenzie Christensen stepped up to the service line and promptly delivered an ace.

With the game down to its final point, an Addie Bowers punch was fumbled by Fairmont, and dropped to the hardwood, giving the Saints their first win of the year.

"We were thrown off before things even started, we had to scramble and things were different," said Geistfeld. "The girls had to adjust but we adjusted and did what we had to do. It wasn't pretty but we won."

Geistfeld noted that going forward, the team can't miss as many serves as they did, as well as to continue to improve her club's passing.

On the night, Brey tallied 24 set assists, was 17/18 serving with two aces and an ace block. Mickelson had nine kills and eight digs. Malmgren had seven kills and seven digs. Bowers finished with six kills, seven digs, and a pair of ace blocks.

Following the win at home, the Saints hit the road on Saturday and were swept by Waseca. On Tuesday, the club fell to St. Peter in a full five-set match.