The Saints can’t seem to find the right chemistry to win volleyball games in 2017. Of the 14 matches St. James Area has competed in this season, only two have resulted in wins for the Saints. The two victories did happen to be against fellow Big South East teams, which is a boost for the Saints in conference standings. St. James has struggled this season with forcing matches into an extra set. When the team is able to keep the set going, they don’t usually lose by wide margins. Unfortunately that case is rare this year for the Saints.
The 2017 season began in a miserable fashion for St. James. For the first five matches on the schedule, the Saints were swept every match. It wasn’t until the team’s first conference match against Waseca that they were able to force another set. The second home game for St. James proved to be a more impressive outing than the home opener when Luverne held the Saints to no more than 17 points in all three sets of its sweep against St. James.
The Saints continued to find their footing in the next conference battle in New Ulm. In this match, St. James and the New Ulm squad went the full distance to end the game in a complete five sets. This was the first instance of either team getting past the fourth set in a match. St. James emerged the winner for its first win of the season after its 0-6 start.
It was back to reality in the Saints’ next match against Blue Earth Area. St. James struggled to get the ball to hit the Buccaneers’ side of the floor. Blue Earth swept the Saints (11-25, 16-25 and 11-25). The Saints’ spirits would be lifted in their next match at home versus the Fairmont Cardinals.
The Cardinals and Saints battled in 2016 for better positioning over the other in the Big South East conference standings. The Saints finished above the Cardinals with an extra conference victory despite having the same amount of losses as Fairmont; St. James played in more games last season, which helped put the team ahead of Fairmont due to a better winning percentage when everything was said and done.
The Saints showed Fairmont their ability to persevere through moments that can shake players’ confidence. The Cardinals trounced St. James 25-12 in the second set as an answer to the Saints taking the first set 25-20. St. James kept its cool and rallied to take back the lead in the match 2-1 with a 25-21 set win in the third. For its second and most recent win this season, St. James beat the Cardinals 25-19 in the fourth set. Dating back to the 2016 season, St. James now owns a two-match win streak over the Fairmont Cardinals.
St. James Area has lost five straight matches since its handling of Fairmont, all of which took place at a nonconference tournament on Sept. 23. The Saints continue conference play on Tuesday, Oct. 3 at home in a rematch against the New Ulm Eagles. Fairmont will challenge the Saints again as well, this time in their own domain at Fairmont High School.
Like New Ulm and Fairmont, St. James will have two opportunities for revenge in last two regular season games. The Saints host Blue Earth in the penultimate game then head over to Waseca in the finale to try and extend the game again but with opposite results.