BASSETT -- The stakes keep rising for the O'Neill St. Mary's and Stuart volleyball rivalry.

Three days ago, the Cardinals evened the season series at two wins apiece with a four-set win in the Niobrara Valley Conference tournament championship.

On Monday night with the D2-6 subdistrict on the line, St. Mary's made it three-straight wins over Stuart 25-18, 25-21, 18-25, 25-19 in a match that was closer than the scores might indicate.

"This was a huge momentum boost for us," St. Mary's senior Riley Sibbel said. "We're pumped to go play in a district final, and hopefully we'll get a win there and go to state."

St. Mary's lost its first two meetings of the season with Stuart over a 10-day span late in September. The first loss snapped the team's state-leading 65-match win streak.

Since then, Cardinals coach McKenzie Connot switched from a 6-2 lineup to a 5-1 with Taylor Colman as the lone setter, Breanna Hedstrom as the libero and Brianna Bauer rotating in as a defensive specialist.

St. Mary's finished the night as strong as it could, scoring seven-straight points to rally from a 19-18 deficit in the fourth set. The run was highlighted by three kills, all by different athletes.

They got things started as well as they could have, too. They opened the match with an 11-3 lead, buoyed by two kills and a block from Sibbel. The Cardinals did the same thing to end the second set, when they turned an 18-14 deficit into a 25-21 set victory.

"I was very proud of them," Connot said. "We knew tonight would be tough."

The loss puts Stuart in limbo until the state tournament pairings are released later this week. The Broncos appear to have a shot at advancing to state via one of the two wildcard berths. As of late Monday, they were fourth in Class D2 with an average of 46.4444 points.

"It's heartbreaking for the girls, not knowing if this is the end," Mustin said. "They've worked so hard since they were little for this."

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