APPLE VALLEY — Unable to carry its strong start into play on Saturday, the Stillwater volleyball team settled for a fourth-place finish at the two-day Apple Valley Tournament.
The Ponies (4-3) advanced to the winners’ bracket on Friday with a 2-0 victory over Minneapolis Southwest and followed with a 2-0 victory in their first match on Saturday.
Stillwater dropped a close semifinal match-up against Lakeville South before falling in three games to Apple Valley, a team the Ponies swept in a nonconference match on Thursday night.
“Friday went really well,” Ponies coach Jamie Suapaia said. “We looked like we were in November form there, playing really crisp and doing all the right things. Saturday, on the other hand, looked like the complete opposite. We just came out flat the entire day.”
The Ponies open Suburban East Conference play on Thursday at Forest Lake.
A. Valley def. Stillwater 17-25, 25-20, 15-13
The Ponies overcame early deficits in games against Apple Valley on Thursday, but ran out of steam while trying to play catch up in the tourney’s third-place match on Saturday.
“I don’t know if we relaxed or what, but our defense didn’t look good at all,” Suapaia said. “They were tipping and we weren’t picking them, but every time we got a transition we got a kill off it so we did good there, we just needed to get more stops on defense.”
Lakeville South def. Stillwater 25-23, 25-23
Passing was a struggle for the Ponies in the semifinals, but they still gave Lakeville South a stern test while battling back after trailing by six or seven points late in both games.
Savannah Sprenger delivered seven kills in the match while middle hitters Stephanie Houle and Stephanie Dietrich added five kills apiece. Susan Evans spread the ball out while racking up 27 assists and Maddie Brandon finished with a team-high 18 digs.
“We were down six or seven and ended up coming back in the second game,” Suapaia said. “The first game it was almost exactly the same thing, but couldn’t finish toward the end. As poorly as we played, we were right there because our volleyball IQ kept us in the game.”
Stillwater def. D-G-F 25-22, 25-13
Bri Horwath totaled nine kills while Dietrich and Houle added five and four apiece to help carry Stillwater past Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton in the quarterfinals to open play on Saturday. Evans finished with 25 set assists and Brandon contributed 12 digs.
“Friday we looked like veteran servers, but then on Saturday we might as well have served underhand,” Suapaia said. “We didn’t error a whole lot, but we were not hitting zones and not serving aggressively and they were staying in system quite often.
“We did a good job of shutting down their outsides, and once that happened they couldn’t really do anything against us in the middle.”
Stillwater def. M. Southwest 25-22, 25-12
Hitting on all cylinders in the opener, Stillwater finished strong while taking out the Lakers in two games on Friday evening.
Horwath and Sprenger each totaled eight kills while Dietrich and Houle combined for eight more in the middle. Evans totaled 30 set assists as Stillwater hit .600 as a team.
“We were hitting really well,” Suapaia said. “Coming in, our game plan was to serve them aggressively because they have some good middles and we wanted to keep it away from them. We just played really sharp from our passing to our hitting. They put their big sophomore on the outside to try and stop our outsides and we did a good job of hitting around her. Savannah and Sophie (Vick) did a great job. Susan had a really good tournament.”