BONDURANT — Curtains came down on the Prairie-City Monroe Mustangs’ volleyball season Monday night in the first round of regional play. PCM fell to the Bondurant-Farrar Bluejays in straight sets, 25-15, 25-15, 25-17.
Although the Mustangs didn’t fill up the win column as much as they would have liked, their first-year head coach Mollie Keitges knows they made all the necessary adjustments.
“I am just so proud of them,” Keitges said. “They worked hard and had some roller coaster moments throughout the season, but they worked hard. I am so proud of the seniors, because they came in the last three years doing one thing and then the last year I mixed it up. They stayed positive and worked hard. They really were great leaders when really it wasn’t always what they were expecting out of their senior year.”
PCM had an uphill fight against B-F, the 13th ranked team in Class 3A. The Bluejays bring a tremendous amount of coordination and athleticism, according to Keitges. Still, she showed pride in her team’s ability to endure and hang tough as opposed to rolling over against a much more cohesive unit.
“We played so hard tonight,” she said. “That’s a good team, 13th in the state, and we stayed with them. We competed. We didn’t give anything to them. They had to earn the win, and that says a lot for our girls. We played solid defense, got some good touches on blocks, but they just aren’t going to make a lot of mistakes. We played so hard, and we played with intensity. It was good to see them finish like that.”
A big block by the freshman Kayla Jennings got the Mustangs on the board early in the first set. The Bluejays strung together several points from there. A serve landing past the back line gave PCM the ball down 7-2. Seniors Abbi Gilson and Lexi Kain scored the next two points for the Mustangs before a ball into the net ended the rally. B-F served up an ace to go up 11-4.
Junior Courtney Van Houweling’s kill followed by a kill by Jennings allowed the Mustangs to climb back in it at 13-7. Gilson scored on a block by B-F that landed wide, but back to back blocks that landed between the lines made it 16-9. B-F’s Lexi Atzen spiked one to the floor to take a 20-12 lead. Van Houweling attempted to lead the comeback with a block, and Kain spiked another ball to the floor to make it 24-15, but the next ball went in the net to end the first set 25-15.
Kain got things started in the second set with a kill at the net. She scored again to give PCM a 3-2 lead. Atzen served up an ace for B-F to give the Bluejays their first lead at 6-5. Gilson had a shot at a kill, but her strike landed long. PCM took a timeout down 7-5. Both teams traded points coming out of the timeout. Senior Keely Bycroft powered home a spike for B-F to take a 9-7 lead. PCM rallied from there though, and Kain’s strike put the Mustangs up 10-9.
Up, 13-11, Atzen hit a vicious strike to the floor. Gilson attempted a diving dig but was too late, and the ball went back to the home team. B-F would score five straight points to take command of the set. The Bluejays eventually closed it out at 25-15.
B-F got on top early in the third set, 7-3. Kain put away a kill to start a rally, and the Mustangs got within a point at 7-6. Gilson’s strike at the net was blocked to start a Bluejays’ rally. Gilson came back with a kill later to make it 13-10. She then served up an ace to make it 13-11. B-F started to rally on an ace by Olivia Denham and took a 16-12 lead. Down 21-12 and seeing the season dwindling, Keitges called for time. Katie Vande Wall got a kill out of the timeout. Several Bluejay balls landed in the net, but B-F eventually closed it out at 25-17.
“I am so excited for next season,” Keitges said. “I think our underclassmen have bought in and are excited about it. We’re going to hopefully play a lot more volleyball in the next nine months and hopefully gain a lot more experience. I think we’ve learned out to play competitive volleyball, so next year will be really exciting.”
Gilson led the team in kills with seven followed by Kain with six. Emma Williams led in assists with eight. Kenzie Clarke’s 11 digs led the Mustangs. Gilson had seven. Kain was 12-for-12 serving with one ace. Gilson went 10-for-11 with one ace.
PCM will be losing seven seniors, all key players this season, but Keitges was happy with what she saw from her younger players. She already has her eyes set on next season.