FARMINGTON – The St. Paul Lutheran volleyball team is preparing for an imminent postseason while building toward the future.
An ability to calmly extend long rallies showed the definite existing potential, but stretches of passing errors and delayed reactions on Wednesday evening indicated the ongoing quest for greater consistency.
Crystal City capitalized on more chances to attack with authority from the front row, and protected solid leads in each game to secure a 25-14, 25-15 road victory.
Middle hitter Molly Clemmons notched seven kills, three blocks and two aces, and fellow sophomore Abbie Edwards added six more kills along the left side for the Lady Hornets.
Mattie Edwards and Jillian Schubert – a pair of seniors – each landed three aces, and the visitors seized immediate momentum as Kate Eisenbeis sent a two-handed push down the line for a 5-0 lead.
St. Paul was paced by standout junior Riley Petty with four kills on limited swings, plus two solo blocks and 14 digs defensively.
Setter Brylee Durbin added two kills and six assists, and equaled Kendall Pipkin, Sammy Jo Pemberton and Pippa Detring with six digs each.
Crystal City prolonged its fast start for an 11-1 cushion after Annie Waites pieced the back corner with a spike and Abbie Edwards ripped a quick set from her sister for a cross-court winner.
The Giants featured a lineup entirely devoid of seniors, but enjoyed moments of resilience while trying to escape their early deficits.
Petty knocked down consecutive kills after finally able to rotate forward, then lunged to the surface along with Durbin for excellent digs as Crystal City misfired long to make it 13-9.
St. Paul would concede the next six points, however, including a pair of aces to Mattie Edwards, and lost a marathon exchange as Abbie Edwards tipped just inches from the sideline at 22-11.
The Giants grabbed a 3-2 edge in game two, and their hustle forced Crystal City (9-9) into working somewhat harder for points until encountering a struggling rotation.
Clemmons capped a 7-0 scoring spree with an emphatic block at 13-5, then delivered a couple of sizzling smashes from the 10-foot line before serving back-to-back aces at 20-11.
Petty converted her first kill of the stanza three points later, and alertly assisted a Durbin placement to the floor at 23-15 after Detring brought up a tricky ball that caromed off the net.
The scrambling play was answered by another strong attack from Clemmons, and the Lady Hornets needed just one match point to seal the outcome as an incoming back-row clearing attempt carried long.
St. Paul (7-14) began a stretch of three matches in as many nights that includes opponents Bunker and Meadow Heights before facing Valley in its Class 1, District 4 opener on Monday.
Lexi Callahan chipped in two kills with two blocks, and Pemberton tallied seven serve receptions for the Giants against their district rival.
Crystal City owns the No. 3 seed – on the opposite half of the bracket from St. Paul – and will meet tournament host Bismarck in the first round.
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