WINONA, Minn. - Senior Jessa Youso (Virginia, Minn./Virginia) made sure she would not end her career without a trip to the postseason, pounding out a career-best 23 kills—the most kills by a Knight since 2007—to lead the Carleton College volleyball team (17-8, 6-4 MIAC) to a thrilling five-set win at Saint Mary’s University. The victory punched the Knights' ticket for the MIAC Playoffs.
Carleton dropped the first two sets before rallying back and forcing the match to go the distance. In the deciding fifth set, Youso tallied five kills including match point as the Knights prevailed 3-sets to-2.
The Carleton offense was slow to get on track, hitting a combined .013 over the first two games. The Cardinals (13-14, 4-6 MIAC) jumped out to an early lead to begin the match and grabbed a 17-9 lead, which proved too difficult to surmount and Carleton lost the first set, 25-14.
With the score tied at 13-13 in the second game it appeared the Knights would not let the Cardinals out of their grasp so easily. However, Saint Mary’s took the next three points and went on to take the second set, 25-21.
With the Cardinals threatening to sweep, Carleton rallied to hang on thanks to its two seniors. Using five kills from both Youso and Sarah Nielsen (Sr./Altoona, Wis./Altoona), the Knights turned it around in the third. Carleton quickly went up 7-1 and held the advantage, winning the third set by a 25-18 margin.
Still on the verge of defeat, the Knights traded points with the Cardinals until the fourth game stood at 15-14 in Carleton’s favor. Led by six more Youso kills in the set, the Knights closed on a 10-4 a run to take the set and knot the match.
The fifth and final set was tight to begin with, featuring seven ties and three lead changes up to a 9-9 score. With the match on the line the Knights went on a 6-2 run to clinch the final set and the match with a conclusive Youso kill, 15-11.
"Our team truly pulled together as a group tonight,” commented head coach Heidi Jaynes. “Jessa was unstoppable in the last three sets and was so determined to get this team into the playoffs. Camille (Benson) had a huge night for us on defense that allowed us to get some momentum. We struggled to find our grove until after set two when the entire team huddled up and decided to fight to the end and get refocused. Our bench was so awesome tonight; they kept the excitement going with their great cheering!
“That was one of the most exciting matched I've witnessed, and I'm so proud of the team. Its great to get into the MIAC playoffs again."
Youso was hardly the only shining Knight. As a team, Carleton struck 61 kills, of which Nielsen contributed 15 of her own. Alicia Flatt (So./Walnut Creek, Calif./Carondelet) assisted on 55 of the Carleton kills, a career high and the most assists by a Knight since the 2007 season. Camille Benson (Fy./Savage, Minn./Burnsville) posted another Carleton career high, bringing up 40 digs. The Knights put up a season-best 11 blocks, with Karen Halls (So./Edina, Minn./Edina) figuring in four of them.
Saint Mary’s was led by Megan Leisen with 17 kills.
While a playoff berth is secured, there is still work left for the Carleton volleyball team when they face rival St. Olaf College on Saturday, Oct. 27 at home in the regular-season finale. Both teams are postseason bound, and the winner will secure home-court advantage in the quarterfinal round. The Knights have not made the playoffs since 2007 when they received an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships. Live video and live statistics will be available on Knights Online.