Unleashing one fast-dropping jump serve after another, Joe Horn finally missed.

But, the St. Rita senior setter didn’t pout or hang his head—he smiled at his teammates.

The Mustangs were right back in the thick of the match courtesy of Horn’s 7-0 run.

“At a point like that in the game with all that momentum, you can’t keep going downhill,” Horn said. “If I start hooting and hollering, we’ll keep going downhill. If I smile, everybody starts laughing, and we move on. It’s always about the next point. Live in the future, not the past.”

Horn’s dominant serves helped turn the tide in the unusually back-and-forth match; however, with a berth in the semifinals on the line, the Mustangs came up short.

New Trier regained control over the game’s final points, taking out St. Rita 25-22, 23-25, 25-21.

The Mustangs finished 28-12. Last year, they also lost in the state quarterfinals.

Horn said this year’s loss was tough to handle, especially for a team not just content to make state. The Mustangs wanted to qualify for state and then do some damage with their talented roster.

“It’s frustrating because we worked so hard and busted our butts,” Horn said. “We fell short. It feels good too because it sets up the program really well for the future. It shows how far we’ve come this season.”

Horn closed out a standout career with 32 assists, 4 aces, 7 digs and 3 kills.

Colin Dahill (13 kills), Quinn Coghlan (10 kills), Zach Carroll (7 kills, 8 digs), Cam Bartmann (6 kills) and Jimmy Sanders (11 digs) all contributed for St. Rita.

The Mustangs led 18-14 in the first set, but New Trier closed on an 11-4 run.

After regrouping with a second-set win, St. Rita was slow out of the gates in the third, falling behind 17-10.

Horn then halted the New Trier momentum.

The senior had 2 aces with Dahill adding 2 kills and Bartmann one as St. Rita tied things at 17 and then went up 18-17 with Horn’s second ace.

From there, however, it was all New Trier.

“Up 18-14 in the first set, we thought we had them,” Coghlan said. “We let it get away. Joe had that great run in the third. You error your way out of a match, and that’s what happened to us.”

New Trier closed the match on an emphatic block at the net. The Trevians blasted 13 kills in the third set, including 6 from junior Peter Brown.

“We were worn out after that big run. It took a lot of steam out of us,” Horn said. We let a few plays go that we should have made or usually make. We let it get away from us.”

Horn will continue his academic/athletic career at Loras College.

St. Rita graduates a strong senior class, including Horn and Coghlan (St. Cajetan), but with Dahill, Sanders, Carroll and Kevin Murney expected back, the Mustangs will have a strong core to build around next season.

Dahill (Queen of Martyrs) said he can’t wait for his senior season.

“Losing Joe and Quinn, those are two of the best players to ever play St. Rita volleyball,” Dahill said. “We’ve got to keep getting better. We’ll keep working, and we’re going to be big contenders next year.”