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ISSUE 121 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/26/2007

Playoff hopes swept away

By Barrett Kennedy
Sports Editor


Friday, October 26, 2007

Before Wednesday, the volleyball team was streaking towards a playoff berth. The women entered Wednesday's match at Hamline with a 7-1 record in their last eight matches, poised to claim the sixth and final spot in the MIAC playoff tournament.

However, the hot streak extinguished as quickly as it started, and the women dropped three straight games to the Pipers. Hamline, who was tied in the standings with St. Olaf before the match, preserved its playoff hopes with the win.

The Pipers put the Oles back on their heels early, taking a 26-13 lead in the first game. St. Olaf battled back to bring the score within seven, but fell short 30-22.

The women lost the following two games 30-27, but led at multiple points in the second game and jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the final game.

However, the Pipers proved to be difficult to close out and they rebounded in both games to complete the sweep.

A trio of first-years paced the Oles' offense. Kim Smisek and Jane Meyer spiked 13 and 11 kills respectively, while Kelly Prunty posted 42 of St. Olaf's 43 total set assists.

The hot streak sparked the weekend of fall break which the Oles spent in Naperville, Ill. playing in the North Central College Tournament. Jess Levin '09 and Smisek paced the Oles offense with 20 kills apiece, leading to a 3-1 victory over North Park University from Chicago, Ill.

Alyssa Williams continued her fine defensive work, digging out 29 North Park University attack attempts. Abby Fournier '09 and Prunty served up six and five aces respectively.

Later in the day, the Oles faced off against Wheaton College and disposed their opponent in straight games. A balanced defensive effort helped St. Olaf sweep Wheaton. Four Oles posted double digit dig efforts in the match.

The following morning the Oles took on tournament host North Central College, which boasted a 22-6 record. The schools fought to a tie-breaker fifth game in which the two they traded points back and forth until North Central finally eked out a 15-13 win. Smisek paced the Oles offense with 25 kills, while Paige Olson '10 and Levin each notched 17 of their own in the hard fought St. Olaf effort. Prunty contributed 62 set assists in the match.

In the final match of the tournament weekend, St. Olaf clobbered Aurora College in three straight games. Meyer spiked 10 kills and hit .182 in the match. After the victory, Levin was one of six players named to the all-tournament team.

"We made a mental decision to win [the tournament]...and it gave us confidence," Levin said. "We were a good team but we finally learned how to finish and win, an aspect that we previously had not perfected."

The Oles returned to MIAC play the following Wednesday and kept their momentum rolling in a 3-1 victory over Bethel University. Smisek crushed a career-high 27 kills and added 16 digs en route to St. Olaf handing Bethel just their sixth loss of the season.

"We have just been carrying that mentality with us through these recent games," Levin said before Wednesday's match. "We all feel unstoppable."

On Saturday, the Oles hosted last-place Macalester College at the Skoglund Gym where their hot streak continued to burn. St. Olaf trounced Macalester in three straight games. Smisek and Levin continued their accurate attacking, hitting .286 and .273 respectively.





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