The Thomas More Prep-Marian volleyball team passed a tough midseason test, winning a thrilling three-setter against Smith Center during Tuesday’s triangular at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.

The Monarchs stormed back from an early deficit in the third set to earn a 25-22, 25-12 and 28-26 win, handing the Lady Red their first loss.

“They showed a lot of grit,” TMP volleyball coach Natausha Dreher said of her team. “They accepted the challenge, they were excited about the challenge. Instead of being fearful for the ball, they all had a desire to have the ball.

“In a match, like that you have to have every girl on the floor and on the bench have a desire to have the ball. I was very, very proud of their grit in that match.”

Dreher said being tested midseason can pay dividends for the Monarchs.

“I just really love playing the Smith Centers, the Phillipsburgs, the Beloits of our region,” Dreher said. “You learn a lot from all those matches — win, lose, whatever happens. A match like that, we kind of saw where we have grown since the beginning of the season mentally, and we get to see different things that need to work on.”

TMP closed the day with a 25-10, 25-13 win over Oakley, winning its ninth straight match and improving to 18-5 on the season.

Dreher credited setter Kassidi Yost for helping keep all the Monarchs’ hitters involved in both matches.

“We’re running a 5-1 now with Kassidi Yost and she’s really good at running our offense,” Dreher said. “She does a wonderful job of mixing it up and keeping all of our hitters an option.

“There’s certain times where Emilee (Lane) is just feeling like she’s in the zone, and you feed her. Then you go away from her and maybe set the opposite pin to Lauryn Miller and she gets a kill. It keeps (the opponent) honest on everybody.”

TMP’s Kallyn Dewitt was honored before the Monarchs’ match against Oakley for senior night. Dewitt is the lone senior on the team.

The Monarchs will play in the Lakin tournament on Saturday.

Smith Center, which placed third in Class 2A last year, won the middle match of the triangular, defeating Oakley 25-14, 25-11.