The St. Martin volleyball team continued to turn its season around Tuesday, beating St. Patrick 3-0 (25-12, 25-17, 28-26).
After starting the season with five straight defeats, St. Martin has now won their last two matches. Yellow Jackets coach Justin Williamson noted the last two losses — to Harrison Central and Biloxi — came in five games where St. Martin opened each match sweeping the opening two.
“I think we are starting to get momentum,” Williamson said. “However, tonight we just wanted to finish the game. We have to learn how to finish games, something we did not do with Harrison Central and Biloxi.”
More importantly to the success of the Yellow Jackets, however, is the return of Shelby Gruich to the lineup. Gruich, who has missed the entire season so far with a high ankle sprain, played limited points against the Fighting Irish and finished with only three kills. However, Williamson said those minutes were very important to St. Martin.
“She is our go-to girl,” he said. “She is our ‘Ra-Ra’ girl who gets everyone up. She is our big hitter. She gets the crowd going.”
Williamson said it was very important to get Gruich back now with only one game left, a match against George County Thursday, until District play starts Sept. 5 against Pascagoula.
“We have a goal to make it back to the playoffs,” he said. “Getting her back is key to us making the playoffs.”
The most difficult game of the night for St. Martin was the final game. Behind three Raven Gonsoulin aces and two unforced St. Martin errors, St. Patrick led 22-17 late in the game in an attempt to avoid the sweep.
Chloe Paske, though, went to work and recorded four kills as the Yellow Jackets battled back to tie the game at 22-22. The two teams would battle back and forth before St. Martin ended the game on an unforced error by St. Patrick and a Bettie Shoemaker kill.
With Gruich still working her way back into the game, Tuesday belonged to Lesley Southworth, who paced the Yellow Jackets with nine kills in the win. Shoemaker added six kills as St. Martin worked everyone into the game, particularly in the third game.
“We are trying to get deep,” Williamson said. “Last year, we were weak on the bench and went only six deep. I wanted to build our bench tonight.”
Mary Tubb paced St. Patrick with 15 kills and four aces. Gonsoulin finished with five aces and 25 assists.