CHASKA — In its final tune-up before the start of play in the Section 4AAA tournament this week, the Stillwater volleyball team posted a 1-3 record to place 10th at Saturday’s 12-team Chaska Tournament.
The Ponies (17-10), who have received the No. 3 seed and will host sixth-seeded East Ridge in the section quarterfinals on Thursday, lost to Southwest Christian 2-1 and Stewartville 2-0 in pool play before knocking off Coon Rapids 2-0 in their third match. Stillwater then lost to Suburban East Conference champion and Section 4AAA top seed Cretin-Derham Hall 2-1 in the match for ninth place.
“It was one of those things where we told the girls on Friday that it’s not going to affect our seedings so we’re going to work on stuff and treat the tournament as another practice,” Ponies coach Jamie Suapaia said. “We changed a few things up and just rolled from there. I’m actually very pleased with how we did.”
After falling to Cretin-Derham Hall in a battle of SEC unbeatens, the Ponies suffered a disappointing loss to East Ridge (16-12) to close out their conference schedule.
“After we lost to Cretin and East Ridge, our girls’ confidence was in the hole and we just took it nice and easy and relaxed,” Suapaia said. “There were some good teams and we got put in a tough pool right away. The thing I was most concerned with was getting back to playing aggressive and not so much worrying about other teams, but taking care of ourselves. This week and the week after is going to be the important ones and those are the ones we’ll stress out about.”
Stillwater won the opening game against the Raiders before falling 23-25, 25-18 ad 18-16. Cretin-Derham Hall jumped out to a 7-0 lead in Game 3, but the Ponies battled back to tie at 14-all before eventually falling short down the stretch.
“We definitely had that one in our grasp,” Suapaia said. “It’s hard to do exactly what we did, but we came back really well. I think our girls looked each other in the eye and said it’s not over and they fought back pretty hard.”
Southwest Christian, which is ranked fourth in Class A, also defeated the Ponies in three games, pulling out a 25-17, 22-25, 15-11 victory in the opener. Behind twin sisters and University of Minnesota recruits Hannah and Paige Tapp, Stewartville stopped the Ponies 25-18, 15-22 in the second round of pool play. The Tigers are ranked No. 4 in Class AA.
“They are dynamic middles, but they didn’t really kill us, our passing kind of killed us,” Suapaia said. “We did a good job of getting them out of system where they couldn’t use the sisters as much.”
Stillwater’s lone victory came against Coon Rapids by the score of 25-23, 25-13, earning the Ponies another shot against Cretin-Derham Hall.