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St. Mary’s volleyball bounces back with sweep of John Carroll in IAAM action

St. Mary’s volleyball undoubtedly has had a rough stretch as of late, dropping games to St. John’s-D.C. and St. John’s Catholic Prep.

But there’s nothing like a sweep on home court to smooth things out.

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The Saints never trailed en route to delivering a 3-0 victory over Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference newcomer John Carroll, 25-16, 25-14, 25-14.

After the loss two days ago, senior Brooke Heary said her Saints wanted to put a little more faith in one another.

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“I think we did that today, especially with the game that probably wasn’t the hardest,” said Heary, who had a team-high six kills. “Even though they [John Carroll] played really well and gave back aggressive serves, we really just trusted each other and there were less jump balls. Everyone just communicated better and worked as a whole team.”

As St. Mary’s embarks on a run of road games against tough teams such as Severna Park, winning before a home crowd gives the Saints the emotional boost they needed.

“Getting that confidence heading to those road games definitely helps,” coach Sarah Heary said. “A lot of it is mistakes we were making in those games. The more we can control the ball in our serves and in our passing, we usually have a better time.”

It wasn’t just that shutout that satisfied Heary but how the win came about. Disconnected passing hurt St. Mary’s in the past, but not on Thursday.

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“Today we were really balanced. We had the middles running well, the outsides, right side,” the coach said. “Everybody’s involved today which was really nice because it doesn’t always happen.”

Throughout the first set, the Patriots were an itch St. Mary’s just couldn’t scratch. Though John Carroll collected a kill or two and an ace, the Saints mostly got in their own way, falling victim to defensive and service errors and allowing unforced errors.

That is, until the 10th Saints point, after which junior libero Marina McAteer delivered back-to-back serves that bounced hopelessly on the Patriots side of the court for aces.

It was what St. Mary’s needed to charge up and unleash six straight points on John Carroll and send them hurried into a timeout, down 15-7.

That little cushion would also come in handy after the timeout, when John Carroll scored four unanswered points. Even as the Patriots pecked in some points to break up St. Mary’s’ march to 25 points, that earlier boost would provide the protection the Saints needed to take the first set. A kill from junior Kyra Obert’s hand to secure the 25-16 win.

Those insurance points also kept the Saints level-headed when the Patriots would get into a groove.

“When we had a bigger lead, and they’d get a couple points, we’d be like, ‘OK, let’s settle down,’” Brooke Heary said. "‘We still have a two-point lead but we don’t wanna stay stuck.’”

John Carroll entered the second game with a fury, leading by a point to start and keeping pace with the Saints as the hosts tried to regain control.

But what firepower was lacking on St. Mary’s’ side in the first set was not in this one.

Heary, who played essential roles on both IAAM final and champion teams, spiked two kills in a five-point St. Mary’s run that once again set the Patriots to call timeout down 9-4.

And this time, that quick conversation would do little to turn the tide.

St. Mary’s feasted on John Carroll’s mistakes, claiming five of the next six points to jump ahead 14-6.

The Saints then flooded John Carroll 8-1, riding kills by Heary and junior Tara Haffelfinger (five kills, six aces), to take the second set, 25-14, and a 2-0 lead.

At first, it looked like St. Mary’s might cruise, taking a 4-0 advantage in the third.

But momentum spent some time with John Carroll as the Patriots galloped out of another timeout with a 5-0 run, highlighted by two aces from senior Rosalie McGuirk.

It’ wasn’t to last.

Brooke Heary landed a pair of kills as the Saints mostly smothered their guests and glided to the 25-14 win to finish off the sweep.

“It really comes down to first contact. As long as we’re passing the ball well, we have an offense we can run,” Sarah Heary said. “It gets us into a rhythm, they get confident and continue to build from there.”

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