The Mariners have accomplished plenty under the direction of head coach Leah Mihm, but they made another piece of history Wednesday night at Howard Coffin Gymnasium.
Coastal Georgia (14-5, 7-1 The Sun Conference) beat St. Thomas (6-11, 3-5) in four sets 25-22, 25-19, 20-25, 25-19 to notch its first victory over its conference rival in four seasons.
Since the beginning of the 2016-17 season, the Mariners had been 0-6 against the Bobcats, but Coastal broke the streak while keeping a couple others intact.
“We haven’t beat St. Thomas in two years,” Mihm said. “I think there’s a lot of girls on this team who have played them the past two years that, this was the game we were going to win, no matter what.”
The win is the eighth straight for the Mariners since dropping a road contest against Keiser on Sept. 14 — their only loss in conference play. Since the defeat, Coastal Georgia has won four of its eight matches in straight sets, and just two went to a decisive fifth set.
“I think we just work hard every day in practice,” Mihm said. “We just want to get a little bit better every week, so that at the end of the season, we’re at our peak.
“You can’t be the team you want to be at the end of the season now. We need to work towards that.”
Coastal looked in top form in the first set, hitting .194 on 31 total attacks and holding St. Thomas to .000 on 22 attempts thanks to six attack errors. Adair Werley delivered a team-high three kills on just five attacks in the first set, including one on a set from Ashley Kot to draw to within set point, which was scored when St. Thomas failed to return the ensuing serve.
But the Mariners’ sparkling attack percentage disappeared in the second set and they managed just nine kills with nine errors on 33 total attacks. St. Thomas took advantage and scored three straight points to tie the set at 17-17, before Coastal Georgia righted the ship and scored eight of the final 10 points to take firm hold of the match 2-0.
“It was mostly a lot of our own errors, and we switched from a 5-1 to a 6-2, so I think it was just our hitters getting used to a different setter and just trying to find a rhythm,” Mihm said. “I don’t know if it was anything they necessarily did. I think it was just us figuring out our side.”
After falling behind by four points to open the second set, it was St. Thomas that jumped out to a big lead with its back against the wall in the third set. The Bobcats began to find success with the short set, allowing Tyran Chenault room to attack.
Chenault delivered five kills on 11 attacks without an error in the third set and, as a team, St. Thomas hit .238 on 42 attacks. Chenault finished the match with 12 kills and an attack percentage of .455.
“[Chenault’s] very good, and so when she was in, that’s where they got all their points, and we just got behind too early in the game and couldn’t catch up,” Mihm said. “I think we kept our momentum going. We just couldn’t reach them.”
St. Thomas led by as many as six points at various points in the third set, but each time, Coastal would make a charge. The Mariners were just never able to get close enough.
The setback wouldn’t linger though. Coastal Georgia scored the first two points of the fourth set to take some momentum back, and then it weathered every storm by St. Thomas. The set was tied 19-19 with the Mariners in danger of falling to a fifth set, but the won the final six points capped by Addie Pedraza’s match-sealing kill.
Pedraza finished the match with 12 kills, giving her more than 400 in her career at Coastal Georgia and moving her into 10th place on the program’s all-time list.
On the season, the Mariners are now 7-0 at the friendly confides of home, where they’ll play four of their final eight games of the regular season. In four seasons under Mihm, the Mariners are 38-6 at Howard Coffin Gymnasium.
“It’s always good to win at home,” Mihm said. “I think that builds school spirit, and it gets people to come back to the games.
“We have a lot of home games coming up, and the longer the run we’re on, the tougher the competition is going to be. So the bigger the crowd we can get out here is going to be beneficial for us.”
Coastal Georgia will try to win two straight over St. Thomas when it travels to Miami Gardens, Fla., for a rematch Saturday.