MONROE — Prairie City-Monroe’s volleyball team has played some intense five-setters recently. Mustang volleyball has had a tough season in the wins department under first year head coach Mollie Keitges, but the past week has suggested they were close to putting together a nice run.
However, whether Tuesday night was a sign of regression or an aberration for a growing team matters not, as PCM was downed by North Polk in three quick sets (25-15, 25-15, 25-7).
“We played 20 points really well. We played with them,” Keitges said of the team’s three-set loss to the Comets. “They’re a nice team, but we lacked a little focus and effort tonight. I think our service and passing fell off a little bit. We passed it a little tight at the top of the net. It was really hard for our setter to get a decent ball for them to hit at.”
The first set opened with a 4-1 North Polk rally until a kill attempt sailed past the back line for the Comets, giving the ball back to PCM. Senior Abbi Gilson hammered home a kill to make it 6-3. Mustang Katie Vande Wall was able to put a point away on a block as the Mustangs rallied back to make it 8-7, but that was as close as the set would get. The Comets put away three straight points until the Mustangs got the ball back at 11-8. Lexi Kain put away an ace, and North Polk led by just three. North Polk went on a big run to put the set out of reach. PCM didn’t score again until Courtney Van Houweling got a kill to make it 22-11. Gilson had a block, and the Mustangs pushed back a bit at the end of the set, but they lost 25-15.
Some impressive Mustang serving kept the second set close for awhile. Gilson had an early kill and a block to bring the team within one point at 4-3. The Comets strung together a rally from there, pulling ahead by four. Jayci Vos got a block to spearhead a PCM charge. A block at the net was dug out by North Polk, but the ball landed wide to tie the set at nine. Kain hit another ace to give PCM its first lead of the night at 10-9. It would not lost long, though. The Comets rallied back to pull ahead 11-10. A Vande Wall kill tied the game back up, but from there, North Polk ran away with the set, going on a 14-4 rally to close it out.
The third set was over in a hurry. North Polk got on top big, and the Mustangs never quite got into it, falling 25-7.
Keitges wanted to see her girls be more aggressive at the net. Although she said the team needed to improve its top of the net passing, she also remarked that when they put themselves in good spots, they need to get aggressive with them.
“We just weren’t really aggressive when we did have a good set. We can’t beat a good team like that just giving up pushes and tips over the net. We can’t do that. We have to really attack the ball. We just got really timid,” she said.
The silver lining on the night for the Mustangs was their defense at the net. PCM seemingly blocked ball after ball, and a less responsive team would have probably been flustered. Call it bad luck or call it great play, either way the plentiful Mustang blocks did not result in points often.
“Our blocking looked really good in the first two games,” Keitges said. We blocked really well, which is a big accomplishment for us. At the beginning of the season, blocking was one of our weaknesses, and I think blocking looked really strong against a team with a quicker offense.”
Van Houweling led the team with three kills. Vos held the team lead in assists with four. Kenzie Clarke dug out 11 balls to lead the squad. She was followed by Kendal Earley’s eight digs. Vos and Vande Wall each had three blocks. Vande Wall was 8-for-8 from the service line. Kain was 7-for-7 with two aces.