Lourdes opened up the home portion of the 2012 schedule on Wednesday evening, dropping a 25-18, 25-16, 25-23 match to 17th-ranked Madonna in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference opener for both schools at Tam-o-Shanter.
"I thought at times tonight we played really well, but at others we weren't so great," head coach Greg Reitz stated after the match. "Against a quality team like this we needed to take advantage of the mistakes they gave us, but we didn't always do that. This was a good barometer for us though, competing against one of the top teams in the conference to open WHAC play."
Madonna jumped on top quickly in the opening set, building an early 8-2 advantage. The Gray Wolves fought back, pulling within three, 18-15, before four straight errors ended Lourdes thought of a comeback. Shelby Schuster (Sylvania, Ohio/Southview H.S.) had four kills in five attempts in the game to pace the Gray Wolves, but service errors proved to be costly in the first set.
"I thought we started slow but then came back," Reitz added. "Six service errors killed us though in a set in which we lost by seven points."
The Crusaders hit a blistering .444 in set two, registering 15 kills to take a 2-0 lead in the match. With the set tied at five, Madonna scored five straight points to build a five-point advantage, and ended the set scoring the last four points as well.
"We never found our rhythm in set two," Reitz stated.
Set three was closely contested from the start, with 13 total ties in it. The Gray Wolves took an early 5-1 lead, and still held the advantage until Madonna battled back to take a 10-9 lead. Lourdes fought back to tie the match at 20 after trailing by two points late, but with the match tied at 23, the Crusaders registered back-to-back kills to close out the match.
"We really battled in set three," Reitz said. "It would have been nice to steal the set and put the pressure on them a little bit, but unfortunately we couldn't score the key points."
Bartlett led Lourdes with nine kills in the match while hitting .261 and Katie McKenty (Toledo, Ohio/Notre Dame H.S.) added eight more kills. Schuster contributed seven kills against just one error, hitting at team-leading .375 for the Gray Wolves, which hit .135 as a team. Michi Jimenez (Vega Baja, P.R./Juan Quirindongo Morell H.S.) handed out 26 assists while Kirstin Kirk (Westland, Mich./John Glenn H.S.) led all players in the match with 20 digs.
"Shelby and Katie both hit pretty effectively for us tonight," Reitz concluded.
Taylor Dziewit led Madonna (12-4, 1-0 WHAC) with nine kills while Nastija Baranovska added eight kills and hit .571.
Lourdes (5-10, 0-1) will continue its five-match homestand on Friday, hosting day one of the Gray Wolf Invitational. Matches begin at 11 a.m., with the Gray Wolves facing Rio Grande at 1 p.m. and Lawrence Tech at 7 p.m.