College of St. Mary’s volleyball team enjoyed a Brad Paisley concert and some time at the beach during its weekend trip to West Palm Beach, Florida.

Before they did that, the Flames took care of business on the court as they went 4-0 at the season-opening Keiser tournament. They lost just one set in four matches, and that was against Madonna (Mich.), which received votes in the NAIA preseason poll.

“We played at a high level from the first point to the last point,” St. Mary coach Rick Pruett said. “We just stayed very consistent in all aspects of the game. There’s going to be highs and lows in every match, but you just try to keep it going when it’s high and battle through when it’s low. We did that.”

The Flames are off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2006. They’re coming off a 14-17 season and were picked to finish 10th in the GPAC preseason poll, but Pruett believes this team will exceed those expectations.

“We’re bigger and more physical all the way around at the hitting and blocking positions (than last season),” Pruett said.

The Flames also featured a balanced attack in Florida. Their top four hitters all finished the tournament with at least 32 kills — Amber Anderson (39), Elizabeth Dlouhy (33), Makenna Freeman (32) and Kamryn Willman (32). Anderson, an Omaha Benson graduate, had 16 kills and hit .583 against Madonna.

Natalie Patten averaged 7.15 assists per set, while Alexis Petry averaged 4.46 assists.

“It wasn’t one person who stood out,” Pruett said. “It was a different player every match. It was really a team effort.”

After returning from Florida late Monday night, the Flames will be back on the road this weekend as they head to Kansas to play four teams from the KCAC.

In other Midlands notes:

» Bellevue also started its season by going 4-0 at the Keiser tournament. Sierra Athen led the Bellevue offense, averaging 3.75 kills per set, while Olivia Galas averaged 9.29 assists. The No. 22 Bruins will play three ranked opponents this weekend in Hastings.

» Midland, ranked eighth in the NAIA preseason poll, opened its season last weekend by going 2-1, losing a four-set match to No. 3 Grand View. In a four-set win over Briar Cliff, Louisville grad Maggie Hiatt had a career-high 25 kills while hitting .455.

» McCook Community College softball coach Josh Barnes has resigned to become head coach at Angelina College in Texas, which was the NJCAA Division I national runner-up this spring. Barnes was coach at McCook for three seasons. Katie Ackerman takes over as McCook’s interim head coach.

» Scott Foley, who had been Chadron State’s cross country coach since last year, resigned to take a coaching job at Black Hills State, where he’d previously been an assistant.

» Northeast Community College’s volleyball team is ranked 11th in the NJCAA Division II preseason poll, which was announced Monday. Northeast finished seventh at nationals last season.

» The UNK volleyball team, coming off a 33-3 season, was ranked 11th in the NCAA Division II preseason poll released Tuesday. Defending champion Tampa is No. 1. Wayne State and Northwest Missouri State weren’t ranked but received votes.

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Gene covers a variety of sports beats for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @geneOWH. Phone: 402-444-1038.

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