The No. 1-ranked St. Paul volleyball team has faced little resistance this season en route to a perfect record through the first three quarters of the season. The Buckaroos have been so dominant, in fact, that the team has dropped just three sets overall in that span.
But St. Paul had its mettle tested in the small gymnasium at Crosshill Christian High School in Salem on Thursday. Although the Bucks came away with another victory, the No. 9 Eagles made them work for every point in the 25-22, 25-22, 25-15 sweep.
"Crosshill was a very strong match and put up a solid block which our team worked hard to get around," SPHS coach Les Hiller said.
The Eagles entered the contest on the heels of a six-game winning streak that began after the last time the two teams met in September. St. Paul won the first encounter handily, prevailing 25-13, 25-11, 25-10.
The loss seemed to galvanize Crosshill Christian, which was determined to make the Bucks sweat out every point, blocking outside hitter Isabelle Wyss and middle blocker Erin Counts at the net while defending well across the rest of the court.
As a result, the Bucks were pressured to play more measured volleyball and responded to Crosshill by defending their side of the court equally well.
"The match had very long volleys and defensively Emma Connor and Destiny Smith covered the court well and passed for a lot of kills," Hiller said.
Wyss led the team with 13 kills in the victory, while Counts added 10 kills and eight blocks. Sadie Smith had four kills and five blocks next to Counts. Karlee Southerland led the team with 17 assists.
The victory was the second of the week for St. Paul, which had a much easier go of things Oct. 2 against the visiting Jewell Blue Jays, winning 25-13, 25-11, 25-8.
Hiller praised the play of libero Emma Connor in both victories, as the senior amassed 10 passes leading to kills against Jewell and 11 versus Crosshill.
"She is reading and covering the court and saving balls while the other team is celebrating, thinking the ball is dead," Hiller said. "She has also been serving very solid."
Counts again led the team in blocks against Jewell, tallying 13 deflections to go along with 11 kills. Southerland notched 17 assists and was 19-of-20 on service attempts with six aces.
St. Paul (21-0, 11-0 Casco League) closes out the season with four consecutive home games before the conference tournament. The Bucks hosted No. 3 Perrydale (21-4, 9-2) on Tuesday and will return to the court Thursday to face Falls City (6-8, 3-8) Thursday.