The 2018 Saint Mary volleyball team entered the year picked to finish sixth in the conference coming off of an 18-18 record in 2017. 

Thanks to a strong effort from all around, the Spires snagged the fourth-place spot in the conference with a 9-3 KCAC record and a 24-14 overall record to set a new program best. 

Head coach Amy Refenes said it was nice to get see the mindset and culture change that she wanted to bring to the Spires when she took over as head coach in 2016. 

“It’s been nice to achieve what our goals have been,” Refenes said. “And what we have been working toward. I think that’s been our mindset. We wanted to change the culture when I got here. It’s nice to see that come to life.”

She said it was also nice to see the hard work pay off with the team setting the most wins in program history. Refenes said it proved to the girls that they are good and the program is not what it used to be. She said they continue to develop confidence to get them over the hump.

Refenes said she could not pick a player or two that has led to the success.

“It’s been a full team deal,” Refenes said. “We’ve got several players who have come in and really made a difference. We are very much a full team. It’s very hard (for opponents) to pick one kid to focus on to stop us. It’s a full team effort, even statistically.”

Refenes also said that pretty much all of the team has been most improved, but one player that she mentioned was freshman Delaney Deckard. Deckard came in toward the end of the season after injuries and the head coach said the freshman has played well to help the team out in the last few games.

The head coach said the team has played a lot of great matches this season. One that stood out was their game at Sterling College on Sept. 25. The game was a described as a tough environment with the Sterling football team in the stands being loud, but Refenes said her team was able to pull out the victory easily for the first win at Sterling since 2010 and only the third win all-time at Sterling. 

The successful season gave the Spires the No. 4 seed and clinched a bye in the KCAC tournament this weekend. The Spires will play the winner of York and Sterling on Friday.

Refenes said the team will need to keep doing what they’ve done all year to continue the success.

“I think we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing all year,” Refenes said. “Our focus will be the same since I’ve been here, which is to serve tough, ball control, low errors, attacking when you can and trust your defense to get the ball back. Serving tough is one of our strengths. We lead the conference in serving aces I believe. We have three or four in the top 10 for aces.”

She also said the mindset doesn’t change from the regular season to the tournament. Refenes said this team plays better under pressure compared to past teams and the team is looking forward to getting after it. Team is excited to get another chance against the top three teams in the conference after not playing well against them in the regular season. Refenes said the team will embrace the underdog role if they advance past their first match and the goal will be confidence. 

The Spires will face the winner of Sterling and York in Hutchinson Friday. First serve is scheduled for 5 p.m.