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Late comeback helps Hunters finish third

PARK HILLS — It seemed likely that third-seeded Ste. Genevieve was leaving the MAAA volleyball tournament with consecutive losses on Thursday night after falling eight points down to North County in game three.

However, the Hunters saved their most efficient passing and attacking for an impressive closing stretch, and charged past the Lady Raiders 23-25, 25-16, 25-23 to capture the third-place match.

Middle hitters Paige Schmelzle and Hanna Klein sent down 12 and 10 kills, respectively, to pace Ste. Genevieve (17-10). Senior Elle Korenak tallied a team-high 13 digs along with seven kills and eight service points.

Celeste Blum posted seven kills and 10 digs while Brittany Collins and Paige Charboneau each shared six blocks for North County (18-9-1), which nearly claimed its third victory of the week as the No. 5 seed in the bracket.

The Lady Raiders achieved an 11-3 separation in the decisive stanza. Jenna McGraw capped a 6-0 scoring streak with an ace after Collins and Charboneau paired for a resounding block three points earlier.

Ste. Genevieve trailed 22-16 before commencing the last of many definitive swings in momentum. Three attacking errors by North County aided in a 9-1 scoring run to complete the action.

Sarah Steagall compiled 20 assists and 10 digs in triumph, and landed a pivotal two-handed push along the net to a vacated outside spot. Korenak then smashed an overpass off the ensuing serve.

Klein had limited chances to attack after pounding seven kills in game one, but converted two in a row with the outcome in doubt, including a left-side winner that presented match point for Ste. Genevieve at 24-23.

The Lady Raiders played the maximum three games for the seventh time in eight matches, and took the opening stanza with a solid comeback of their own after a block by Candace Burr put the Hunters ahead 10-6.

McGraw avoided a potential collision with the referee’s chair while sending an overhead bump-set to Collins for a strong kill, and North County created a 14-11 advantage after the Hunters misplayed two passes.

Ste. Genevieve evened game one at 23-23 on a four-hit violation after Korenak won a joust, but Collins blistered a deep spike on game point for North County off Blum’s steady dig.

The Hunters improved their blocking results to dominate game two while North County struggled at times to receive serves.

Senior libero Abby Meyer gave Ste. Genevieve a 24-13 cushion with her second ace, and finished the match with 11 points and 11 digs overall. Morgan Grither added seven assists in the victory.

North County, which won the regular season contest over the Hunters at home, received 10 digs from Kourtney Kekec and eight from Kylie Dement.

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