CLINTON -- This is what high school athletics is all about. At least that’s what Clinton volleyball co-coach Mark Massey believes.
Clinton High School closes the regular season at 7 tonight. With Senior Night serving as a backdrop at W.J. Yourd Gymnasium, the River Queens (20-8) play host to Bettendorf with the chance of claiming a share of the Mississippi Athletic Conference title.
“It’s a challenge, and that’s why everybody gets into athletics and team sports, to measure themselves against the best out there,” Massey said.
It’s a rematch of last year’s regional championship, when the Bulldogs won a hard-fought, five-set match that served as a springboard to winning the Class 5A state title.
Almost everybody from that teams is back, another future Division I player has come aboard and Bettendorf has been nearly impossible to beat this fall.
“You enjoy the fact that our league and eastern Iowa always affords you the chance to measure against the best out there,” Massey said. “I think the girls are excited for the opportunity. They certainly are respectful of Bettendorf and know anything less than our best won’t get it done.”
Bettendorf already has clinched a share of the MAC crown, and the Bulldogs enter the match with a 31-2 record and the No. 2 ranking in the state Class 5A ratings. They had been No. 1 all year until dropping a 25-12, 25-22 match 10 days ago to then-No. 2 Ankeny in the finals of the Bettendorf Invitational.
“Based on what I’ve seen, they come at you with more attackers at more positions than anyone in the state,” Massey said. “They serve pretty well, they’re excellent passers, they block well. They’re perhaps one of the more experienced teams to ever play in the state.”
Bettendorf has a pair of returning all-state players headed to play Division I volleyball -- second-team outside hitter Caitlin Wernentin (UNLV) and honorable mention pick Anna Willey (Liberty) -- but also got a major addition this year when Georgia recruit Devan Porter moved in. Porter, a 6-foot senior, leads the Bulldogs in kills (3.11 a game) and is second in blocks (0.67) and digs (2.39). Wernentin is right behind at 2.66 kills, while Willey averages 2.12 kills, 0.6 blocks and a team-high 5.55 assists a game.