LINCOLN, Neb. -- A tight match between the Saint Mary's volleyball team and Dayton remained tense throughout but the Flyers got the points they needed at the very end, edging the Gaels in a five-set thriller at the Ameritas Players Challenge hosted by the University of Nebraska.
Jordan Shaw collected a double-double for Saint Mary's (4-3) with 16 kills and 18 digs and Kristina Graven added a double-double of her own with 16 kills and 15 digs. Samantha Tinsley enjoyed her strongest match of the season to date with 15 kills and 11 digs and Dalas Dodd added 58 assists and 11 digs.
"This was a great match. Both teams came ready to battle and the result was some very good volleyball," Saint Mary's coach Rob Browning said. "We had our chances to take it in the fifth set but they made a couple of very good defensive plays and the ball bounced their way a couple of times and that was the difference."
As they had in their other matches in Nebraska, the Gaels got things started with a strong first set. Tied at 20 late in the set, Saint Mary's scored five points in a row to close out the period. A pair of blocks by Rachel Gillcrist and Shaw gave the Gaels the victory and the momentum after one set.
Dayton responded in the second, staving off one set point to keep things alive. The Flyers scored the final three points in the set, and an ace by Jenna Jendryk made it 26-24 Dayton and evened the match at one set all.
Saint Mary's strongest set came in the third, as the Gaels bolted out to a 10-3 lead. Tinsley led the way in the service game, with four straight points on her serve early in the set giving SMC the advantage. Shaw's kill ended the set and left Saint Mary's headed to the fourth looking to close the match out.
Another close set followed, but again it was Dayton that managed to pull out the narrow victory. After a kill by Tinsley tied the set at 24, Jendryk put the Flyers ahead with a kill and an ace by Alaina Turner gave Dayton the 26-24 set win.
In the decisive fifth set, Saint Mary's had its chance to score the win after a kill by Graven put the Gaels up 15-14. Jill Loiars knotted the match at 15 with a kill, and the two teams traded points to stay close for the next few minutes. Eventually, a block by Shayne Brown and Angel Agu gave Dayton the lead and a kill by Turner ended things with the Flyers earning the 18-16 win.
Saint Mary's returns to Moraga on Thursday to begin West Coast Conference play against Portland at 6 p.m. The Gaels travel to Stanford on Friday, then return to McKeon Pavilion on Saturday for a 2 p.m. matinee against Gonzaga.
"Dayton presented some challenges for us that stretched us and made us do things that were uncomfortable for us," Browning said. "That will pay off for us in matches that lie ahead of us. We are looking forward to a big weekend ahead of us."