Clinton settled for a three-way tie for runner-up in the MAC with Pleasant Valley and Muscatine, also 7-2. A win would have made the River Queens co-conference champions with Bettendorf. Bulldogs coach Diane Lichtenberg said her team was in no mood to share.
"Our first goal was to win the MAC," Lichtenberg said. "We didn't want to have to share that with anybody. The last two matches, Clinton was down 0-2 and came back. We wanted to make sure that didn't happen."
Bettendorf built an early 10-4 lead in the opener, as setter Anna Willey posted a five-point run from the service line with two aces. Clinton picked at the lead, turning hard Bulldogs swings into digs and long rallies. Harris found Wenzel and sophomore outside Elle Tubbs while stringing together several short Clinton runs, bringing her team as close as 21-18. The Bulldogs put down their next four points for kills and took Set 1 25-20.
Bettendorf built another strong lead — 7-2 — thanks to tough serving in Set 2. While the River Queens slowly climbed back, they struggled to create their own points, relying mostly on Bulldogs miscues to stay within striking distance. Nelson, Shovlain and Harris weathered several punishing blows from Bettendorf outside Devan Porter, helping Clinton win another long rally to make it 16-13 Bulldogs. Yet again, Bettendorf used another hefty string of points, closing out the set with a 10-5 run.
Porter finished with a match-high 11 kills.
"When you play a good team, a couple of things can happen," Clinton co-coach Aubree Tanzillo said. "You can play outstanding or you can be the team that gets out of system. I think that was us tonight."
Lichtenberg said her team "clearly needed to shut down" the River Queens' offensive cogs: Wenzel and Tubbs. Bettendorf held both players to relatively quiet nights, eight and 10 kills, respectively. Neither player had an attempt without facing two black-and-gold blockers across the net.