CLINTON — Coming into their first game since breaking into the state rankings, the Clinton River Queens were looking to make a statement.
They had a perfect opponent in a Class 3A No. 4 ranked Davenport Assumption team, who came into Yourd Gymnasium on Tuesday night with just one loss on the season. However, they fell just short of taking down the Knights and lost in five sets 23-25, 25-17, 23-25, 25-22, 15-11.
“Volleyball is a game of waves, you see some high ones and some low ones,” Clinton coach Micah Cewe said following the Mississippi Athletic Conference loss. “We need to stay consistent. We play together, we fight hard, but just staying consistent. The first and the third set, you lose by two. If you can change a couple points and win a couple points, it changes the game there.
In Set 1, Clinton managed to build a 12-5 lead early on. However, Assumption climbed back and took the lead 20-18, never letting the Queens do more than tie it up from there.
Once again, the River Queens jumped out fast in Set 2, taking the first four points before an Assumption side out. Even after that, Bailey Wing put one away down the line and Mallory Melvin served an two consecutive aces to extend their lead.
“Our girls served great,” Cewe said. We threw them out of system, and that was one of our goals was to serve tough.”
One thing Clinton did exceptionally well during their runs was hit their spots. They weren’t limited to cross court swings, finding kills down the line, tips in the middle, and pushes to the back corners of the court.
“We were attacking well and hitting our spots, we knew their defense,” Cewe said. “They played scrappy, though, and picked up a lot of balls that would have fallen against other teams.”
The Knights moved back into striking range, taking over the serve at 11-8. A Clinton block fell on the wrong side, and Cewe called a timeout. With the Knights moving within one, Molly Chapman hit a crucial ball into the back corner for a kill. Megan Gandrup aided it with a back row attack that the Knights couldn’t get back over.
Assumption had to call their first timeout of the game after the River Queens went up 19-14, but the Queens dominated form there on out.
Even with some scrappy defense in Set 3, the Knights pulled ahead once more.
At the start of Set 4, you could see the deficit the River Queens had in front of them on the faces of the starting six. The Knights jumped out to an 8-4 lead.
“Sometimes we wear our emotions on our sleeve,” Cewe said. “We can’t do that because then I have to burn a timeout and give them the ‘Ra-ra’ speech, or tell them it’s unacceptable. They’re a talented group of girls, who plays great at times, plays bad at time. Whether we are winning or losing, we can’t show it.”
With Grace Tubbs in the front row—aiding with hits and a couple big blocks—the River Queens went on a four point run to tied everything up 15-15, taking the lead three possessions later.
The Queens jumped out to take the 21-18 lead, and Assumption called a timeout. They nabbed the first point out of it, but Mallory Melvin swung at an off-ball an placed it just right for the kill.
Melvin, Chapman, Macy Mulholland and Bailey Wing all stepped up and played some of their best of the season.
“When you have other kids that step up when Grace [Tubbs] is off the floor, that’s what we’re asking all of our kids to do,” Cewe said. “We do that at times, and to have them do it tonight that’s what we need.”
With some pushback from the Knights the River Queens finished out the set with a kill from Grace Tubbs, an Assumption net call, and huge block from Bailey Wing and Tubbs.
With the momentum on their side, the Queens couldn’t finish. The Knights started the fifth and shortest set out with an ace. After that, Clinton committed two serving errors and three hitting errors to help the Knights cruise to a 15-11 victory and close out the game.
“Errors always hurt, especially in a short game,” Cewe said. “We have to stay disciplined. We’ll learn from our mistakes, we’ll get better.”
They have a small break to gather themselves, returning to action on Saturday when they host their own invitational.
“It’s keeping our morale up,” Cewe said. “Five set losses are tough: you almost would rather lose if three if you have to lose. Those hurt the worst, they sting. We need to turn around, get back in the gym and focus on this weekend.”
Tubbs led the game with 21 kills and four blocks. Bailey Wing and Macy Mulholland added another seven kills a piece, with Molly Chapman contributing four.
Haley Dash led the back row as the libero with 22 digs, but was followed closely by Mallory Melvin with 21 and Megan Gandrup with another 20. Molly Chapman had 12 and Brooke Mulholland another 12.