Top-seeded Stew-Stras faced two separate 7-1 deficits during play in Saturday’s National Trail Conference tournament, but the difference between coming back from one and not from another may have been St. Anthony’s Haylee Mathis.
Mathis had 10 kills in the NTC championship game to lead the Bulldogs to the conference championship, beating Stew-Stras in two sets, 27-25 and 25-19, in the first-place game.
The Comets couldn’t come back from the 7-1 deficit after losing the first set by two points, during which the Comets led until St. Anthony took a 24-23 lead. In the second set, the Bulldogs put the NTC No. 1 seed away, as Stew-Stras only came as close as four points the rest of the way.
“It was a battle of raw power,” St. Anthony head coach Kristie Bailey said of the back and forth first set. “Fortunately for us, we ended up on top.”
Stew-Stras jumped out to a 13-5 lead, controlling the flow of the game similarly to when the Comets beat St. Anthony at the Enlow Center two weeks ago.
Bailey said the loss two weeks ago opened her eyes to a new aspect of her team’s offense, which ended up being a driving force on the road to the championship.
“Sometimes, when you lose, it makes you look at everything,” Bailey said.
Bailey said she realized she needed to give more playing time to freshman Jenna Woltman, who could free up Mathis to be more of an offensive attacker — whereas she was a setter most often this season.
Mathis had 10 kills in each of the two games St. Anthony played Saturday, beating Neoga in straight sets before playing Stew-Stras for the championship.
“You always hope for a better outcome, but with (Mathis) hitting that changed things up quite a bit,” Stew-Stras head coach Ronda Schlechte said. “We lost a lot of points to her.”