OAK PARK HEIGHTS — After cruising to victories in its first seven Suburban East Conference matches without losing a set, the Stillwater volleyball team has stumbled down the stretch with consecutive losses in five games.
The Ponies (7-2 SEC, 16-7) fell to unbeaten conference champion Cretin-Derham Hall on Thursday and followed that up with a 4-3 loss against East Ridge on Senior Night Tuesday at Stillwater Area High School. The Raptors (7-2, 15-12) overcame a large deficit to win the opening game and also rallied after trailing 2-1 in the match while pulling out a victory by scores of 27-25, 12-25, 24-26, 25-23 and 15-13.
“We just kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” Ponies coach Jamie Suapaia said. “At this time of the season, there’s a little lull for some teams and that’s what is happening with us. We have to get back to having fun with the pressure of sections coming up. We know we’re a good team and we might be putting too much pressure on ourselves and instead of going out and being aggressive, we’re just playing it safe.”
Stillwater jumped out on a 9-0 run in the opening game and led 21-12 before the Raptors rallied back for a victory. The Ponies responded with a comfortable victory in Game 2 and also prevailed in the third game before East Ridge charged back.
“We had a long talk about us doing the same things we were doing and not going out of our comfort zone,” Suapaia said. “We’re just staying within our comfort zone and we’re getting dug time after time instead of switching it up.”
Bri Horwath led the Ponies with 22 kills while Stephanie Dietrich followed with 17 and Stephanie Houle chipped in with 14 kills. Savannah Sprenger totaled 10 kills.
“I think we’re choosing when to play and when not to play and you can’t do that down the stretch,” Suapaia said. “(When things were going well) we were playing as we know how to play. We weren’t letting balls hit that easily, we were going up and swinging and using our middles and passing really well.”
Maddie Brandon finished with 41 digs while Sophie Vick contributed 20 digs. Susan Evans totaled 50 set assists.
n The Ponies, who are slated to compete in a tournament at Chaska on Saturday, have received the No. 3 seed for the Section 4AAA tournament and will face the winner of #11 White Bear Lake at #6 East Ridge in the quarterfinals on Oct. 25.
The other top seeds who also received first-round byes include #1 Cretin-Derham Hall, #2 North St. Paul and #4 Roseville. The first-round games will take place on Tuesday.