St. Pat's volleyball coach Shelly Byrn had bittersweet feelings after her teams' five-set loss on Tuesday to Paxton.She was upset that the Lady Irish lost the match. But at the same time, she was elated by how well her team competed after its star player, Brittany Lawrence, left the game about midway through with an ankle injury.
"They battled back," said Byrn, who was a little choked up at the moment. "They've faced adversity all season long and I am so proud of the girls, right now."
But without Lawrence, St. Pat's fell 16-25, 25-22, 25-21, 18-25, 15-12 to the Lady Tigers.
The Irish (17-11) got off to a good start. They took an 18-14 lead in the first set after Lawrence served for five straight points and they held on late to go up one set to none.
The second set was pretty even until Paxton (17-8) broke away for a 23-16 lead on a five-point run served by Karlee Schow. Soon the Tigers evened the match up.
Early in the third set, Lawrence went down with a left ankle injury. Since the 6-foot-3 Creighton recruit is such a big part of its offense, St. Pat's struggled and Paxton won the third to move within one set of victory.
But without Lawrence, the Lady Irish had other plans. They took a 13-11 lead in the fourth after Bree Saner served for two straight aces. Then Amanda McClellen made a kill on the next play for a three-point advantage.
St. Pat's held the lead and forced a decisive fifth set.
"We pulled together and won the fourth," Byrn said. "We just came together and we showed great chemistry. We just got better and we just got stronger."
But the Irish fell short in the fifth. Paxton scored the first three points on kills by Austin Hackney and Bailee Schow, as well as a hitting error by Alli Skala.
St. Pat's got back in it and it closed to within 5-4 after a pair of Skala kills and a hitting error by Bailee Schow.
But the Lady Irish couldn't tie or take the lead. The Tigers broke out to a 10-6 and they then had matchpoint at 14-9.
St. Pat's won three points straight with Skala serving before Bailee Schow ended it with a kill on the left side.
"They came out and scored two or three on us," Byrn said. "We just fizzled. That's probably our youth again and we were inconsistent."
The loss ends the regular season for the Irish. Whether Lawrence returns for subdistricts next week or not, Byrn said that she felt pretty good.
"A lot of people will look at the score but I am looking at how the girls pulled together," she said. "That's huge this time of year."