CLINTON — It was the perfect chance to unravel.
Already trailing two games to none, a Clinton celebration over an apparent point by Raven Jones turned to dismay when the point went to Pleasant Valley. Jones pleaded for the point, Clinton captains Hannah Dehner and Monique Harris made an appeal to referee Sergio Villarreal on the stand, and finally co-coach Mark Massey came out to question the call during a Clinton timeout.
Their pleas denied, the River Queens stepped back on the court with just a one-point lead, 19-18, and momentum in danger of turning back to the Spartans.
Before the Spartans served, Harris called out to her teammates.
“Just knowing that play didn’t determine the whole game, we needed to let it go,” she said she told her teammates.
Clinton did just that, rallying after losing the first two games 25-23 and 25-19 to knock off the eighth-ranked Spartans with three straight wins, 25-23, 25-18 and 16-14, on Tuesday night at W.J. Yourd Gymnasium. The win kept the River Queens (20-8, 7-1 MAC) in contention for the Mississippi Athletic Conference title while eliminating the Spartans (20-5, 6-2) from the championship picture. The Queens play host to defending state champion Bettendorf (31-2, 8-0) next Tuesday for the championship.
“These girls work hard, and it’s good to see them succeed and be so excited,” Clinton co-coach Aubree Tanzillo said. “This was huge. It’s a big confidence booster. We keep telling the girls if we have solid play we’re a tough team to beat.”
They proved that even in the games they lost. With both teams flying all over the court to force long, dramatic rallies, it easily was the best match of the year for the Queens.
“Overall, it was a great match,” Pleasant Valley coach Stacey Ruff said. “The disappointing part is how well the girls played in games one and two and not making sure they finished it.”