The Oles' afternoon started sluggishly and they quickly fell behind in the first game. Carleton rattled off 14 straight points midway through the game and dropped the Oles 30-14 to start the match.
However, the women rebounded quickly in the second game, and at one point the two schools were tied at 25. Next, the Oles benefited from two Carleton attack errors and one service error before kills by Jess Levin '09 and Jane Meyer '11 won the game for St. Olaf, tying the match at one game apiece.
The third game captured the back-and-forth nature of the whole match as the teams were tied seven times in the last third of the game. After the last tie at 28, Carleton managed to win the last two points, and the Oles found themselves down two games to one in the best of five match.
Again, St. Olaf battled its way back into the match, and the score stayed within a four point difference for the entirety of game three. The Oles and the Knights traded kills for the last seven points, with St. Olaf edging out a 30-28 victory of their own.
With the match tied 2-2, the Oles and Knights played a tiebreaking fifth game. The women fought back to tie the extra game at 12, then outside hitter Kim Smisek '11 notched three kills in the last four points to seal the victory for St. Olaf. Tiebreakers have been a strong point for the Oles this season; Saturday's victory boosted their record to 4-1 when the match goes to a fifth game.
"Beating Carleton at home in such an intensely-fought match was surreal," Abby Fournier '09 said.
"It was a true battle of the Northfield teams, and basically whoever wanted it more would come up with a win," Smisek added. "This year it was us who had that will power."
A balanced St. Olaf offense featured four Oles with double-digit kills in the match. Smisek led all players with 22 total kills, followed closely by Meyer with 21. Levin and Paige Olson '10 added 17 and 12 kills respectively in the win. First-year Kelly Prunty posted a career-best 68 set assists.
The Oles' defensive effort was equally distributed in the Carleton match. Five different women contributed double-digit defensive digs, with sophomore libero Alyssa Williams' 21 leading the way. Williams injured her ankle in practice during the previous week and did not play in the Hamline match.
"Thankfully, Alyssa Williams was able to fight through the pain and come out for us against Carleton," Fournier said. "We couldn't have won without her."
With Saturday's win, the Oles improved their final record to 13-10, landing them in eighth place in the conference with a record of 5-6. The women also ended the season on a 7-2 run in their last nine matches.
The loss was just the fourth on the season for Carleton, who earned the fourth seed in the upcoming MIAC playoff tournament.
The Oles, who will not graduate a single senior this spring, have already started their off-season weight training program. Rarely does a team return every one of its players the following season, and the youthful Oles look to capitalize on their experience this year.
"This year, as a college player, I've realized that it takes more than skill to get the job done," Smisek said. "It's about being a mentally strong player."
Fournier took a moment to reflect and look ahead. "I'm obviously disappointed that we didn't make the playoffs this year, but my hopes are definitely high for next year."
Wednesday, Smisek was the only Ole named to the All-Conference team.