ELDRIDGE — The Clinton River Queens fell in the regional quarterfinals on the road Tuesday night — but not quietly — battling with North Scott for five sets before falling 16-14.
“We left everything on the court; I don’t think there was anything else we could have left,” Coach Micah Cewe said following the loss. “It’s tough that you don’t get that win because we lose our seniors, but it lights a bright future for the potential that we have.”
Not only did the River Queens almost complete the comeback, but they did it without their starting middle and season kill leader Grace Tubbs. Tubbs, a 6-foot-5 junior who already has committed to play college volleyball for Iowa, injured a knee in practice Sunday.
“The girls were able to rally around that, I think,” Cewe said. “We had one day to prepare and put a different gameplan, but the girls did that and played with energy and intensity and fire that I’ve never seen before.”
The River Queens jumped to a 5-0 start in the first set, but the Lancers quickly battled back to tie it at 8 apiece. Some back-and-forth play continued, until a kill from Sam Matheny was overturned. It resulted in a yellow warning card for Cewe.
“Officials are not why we lost, but to put the girls in that situation is not fair,” Cewe said. Three calls that had originally been in favor of the River Queens were overturned throughout the five sets. “The girls need to determine the match.”
Despite big plays from Matheny and Brooke Mulholland, Clinton dropped the first set 25-21
“Before the game we knew that if we got down we couldn’t let them get in our heads,” Matheny said. She led the River Queens in kills with 18 through the five sets. “We knew that if we did that we would keep falling. We didn’t let them get in our heads. When we were down we kept going and everybody gave in 100 percent.”
The second set was another battle, and Cewe called a timeout at 19-17. Coming out of that timeout, Clinton was able to score only one more point, dropping Set Two 25-18.
With the 2-0 lead in the match, North Scott jumped to a 5-0 lead in the third, and Cewe needed a timeout to collect his team.
“That’s a hole that you never want to be in,” he said. “We just kept telling them to trust the process and play with a dig-or-die mentality — every point, game point. We said keep those things in your head and just play volleyball.”
They battled back with Molly Chapman serving and tied it. Clinton took the lead 9-8 after a block from North Scott fell out of bounds.
Added to Matheny’s team high 18 kills, Brooke Mulholland put the ball away nine times, while Macy Mulholland and Sarah Goldensoph had eight kills apiece. Chapman, one of the players moved around because of Tubbs’ injury, had four.
“We had to move Molly from the right side to the middle,” Cewe said. “She stepped up huge. She had lots of energy; she had the speed and the quickness, and I was happy with her performance.”
The River Queens took a commanding five-point lead, 17-12, late in Set Three and never really let it go. They took the third set 25-21.
Clinton let its energy carry over into the fourth set, leading the first half of the game. The Lancers took the lead again at 12-11, but the Queens weren’t ready to give up and took the fourth 25-19, sending the match into a tiebreaking fifth set.
“I think we all stepped up,” Matheny said. “When we were down we all talked and we all got each other up.”
The Pit, North Scott’s gymansium, was full with fans from both sides who definitely were not afraid to make noise. It’s something the players hadn’t really come across before.
“Half the time we couldn’t even hear the whistle,” Matheny said. She also had five of the team’s eight service aces. “I think the loud atmosphere actually helped us. It forced us to talk more, and that’s what we needed.”
Back-and-forth play started the fifth set, the lead changing between the two teams every other serve. The River Queens tied it again at 7-7, then an attack error from North Scott gave them the 8-7 advantage. Macy Mulholland then placed a roll shot right in the middle of the court to give Clinton a two-point lead.
Brooke Mulholland followed that with a net-scraping ace to put the score 10-7. There was a sideout for the Lancers and an attack error from Clinton to cut Clinton’s lead to 10-9.
Another attack error on Clinton’s end tied the game at 10, and a big block, plus a kill from the Lancers, gave North Scott the 12-10 advantage.
A long push from setter Brooke Mulholland cut the lead to one, but a miscommunication and a kill gave the Lancers the serve for the win.
Sam Matheny hit around the North Scott block to keep the River Queens in the game but still behind 14-12. An attack error by the Lancers cut the lead to one, 14-13, and another kill from Matheny tied everything at 14-14.
A serving error from Clinton gave North Scott the lead and the serve, then an attack error ended the game 16-14. That was the end of the match and the season for the River Queens (19-13).
“We all gave it 100 percent,” Matheny said. “We wanted it.”
Haley Dash had 20 digs for the Queens, followed by Mulholland with 16. Matheny and Cassie Smith added 13 each. Brooke Mulholland had 35 asssits.
“I honestly can’t point to one person; I would have to say it was all 12,” Cewe said. “I felt like they all stepped up and did what they had to do to put us in a position to win and compete and play like I’ve never seen before.”