By Shannon Heaton
For the Herald
DAVENPORT — Aggressive play on the volleyball court cures a lot of ills.
What it cured for Clinton High School on Thursday night at Davenport West was a sluggish start and tentative play, as the River Queens broke through after a slow start to defeat the host Falcons in three games, 25-21, 25-18 and 25-19, to move to 2-0 in Mississippi Athletic Conference play on the season.
“We seemed a little bit sluggish at different times,” River Queens coach Mark Massey said. “It was the first hot night (in a warm West gym), and that’s not an excuse. ... But we have been an effective serving team. We count on our serve taking our opponent out of the game and giving us opportunities to score.”
It took a hard swing from Mallory Voss late in the first game to get Clinton (6-3 overall) untracked. Her first kill of the match tied that game at 20-20, and the River Queens scored five of the final six points in that game.
But she wasn’t done. Voss’s serving rotation essentially broke open the second game in the Queens’ fashion, as she served up eight consecutive points — five of those being aces — to lift Clinton to a 9-1 second-game lead.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Voss, who had a huge grin on her face after serving up aces on three consecutive points and six for the night. “After the first one, it just started going really well. We just had to make sure they didn’t dump or push anything over.
“I think we were really timid coming out, but as a unit we definitely got better. We started talking more, we played more as a team and we weren’t so timid.”
West (1-5, 0-2) tried to play its way into the game, cutting a nine-point deficit (16-7) to four before Courtney Camp’s ace, plus two West errors, got the lead back out to seven.
In the final game, middle blocker Leisha Harris closed down West’s offensive attempts right from the off, with two blocks and a kill to get the River Queens started. She wound up with three kills and five of her six stuff blocks in the third game as Clinton pulled away after a 10-10 tie started the game.
“When we play a stronger team, we play stronger than usual. We usually tend to play at (the other) team’s level,” Harris said. “It usually just takes one of us to step up, and the rest gets going.”
Devynn Paulsen led Clinton in kills, with six, while Harris added five. The passing tandem of Camp (10 assists) and Ashley Haugen (nine) clicked, as did the River Queens defense. Camp led Clinton with 11 digs, while Haugen, Paulsen and libero Paige Dehner each had eight, and outside hitter Sarah Massey contributed seven.
“The thing we have to push to the hitters is to hit it, to hit it long if they need to. The refs will make the play if they hit short,” coach Massey said. “This was one of our better nights hitting the ball. Our record (the 6-3 start) is probably the best start we’ve had in four years or so.”
CLINTON 25-25-25, DAV. WEST 21-18-19
Kills — West 27 (Kelley Wallace 7, Erin Bracey 4, Rachel Smith 3, Lexi Seikola 3, Samie Belz 3, Lauren Schemmel 2, Brittany Hinton 2, Tenley Brockmann 2, Janelle Duncan 1), Clinton 25 (Devynn Paulson 6, Leisha Harris 5, Sarah Massey 4, Ashley Haugen 4, Mallory Voss 3, Courtney Camp 3).
Blocks — West 2 (Duncan 1, Belz 1), Clinton 9 (Harris 6, Voss 1, Haugen 1, Paulson 1).
Aces — West 4 (Hinton 2, Bracey 1, Seikola 1), Clinton 11 (Voss 6, Camp 2, Massey 1, Haugen 1, Kiara Williams 1).
Assists — West 22 (Schemmel 15, Hinton 5, Smith 1, Belz 1), Clinton 20 (Camp 10, Haugen 9, Paulson 1).
Digs — West 36 (McKenzie Lucas 8, Schemmel 6, Stacie Kammerer 6, Hinton 4, Seikola 3, Sara Dorton 3, Bracey 2, Smith 1, Duncan 1, Wallace 1, Belz 1), Clinton 45 (Camp 11, Paige Dehner 8, Paulson 8, Haugen 8, Massey 7, Williams 2, Courtney Melvin 1).
Records — Clinton 6-3 (2-0 MAC), West 1-5 (0-2).
By Shannon Heaton