By Jon Gremmels
Herald Sports Editor
When Clinton built an 18-13 lead in Game 3 on consecutive kills by Erin Wenzel, Elle Tubbs and Alyssa Wing, the volleyball team seemed ready to end second-ranked Pleasant Valley’s 23-match winning streak.
Minutes earlier, the River Queens had ended the Spartans’ string of game shut-outs that went back to Sept. 22 when they overcame an early deficit to win Game 2 in the matchup of teams that entered the Mississippi Athletic Conference showdown with one loss each in conference play. Riding the momentum, the Queens still led at 21-17, just four points away from taking a 2-1 edge in games.
“We thought we had it going good,” Clinton senior Devin Matheny said.
Then, things came crashing down on the Queens.
The Spartans (28-1) served three aces and surrendered just two points the rest of the game to pull out the win. Pleasant Valley used another similar run in Game 4 and stayed in a tie with North Scott for first place in the MAC with the 25-20, 20-25, 25-23, 25-16 win.
“Clinton is a momentum team,” Pleasant Valley senior Chloe Miller said. “We started to calm down a bit and took the points one by one.”
Miller started Pleasant Valley’s comeback with a kill that cut the deficit to 21-18 in Game 3, and Megan Paustian followed with an ace. Moments later, Allie Carter delivered an ace that cut Clinton’s lead to one, then the Spartans pulled even at 22 on a block.
The Queens took one last lead when Carter served deep, but a kill by Maddi Theisen tied it again, then Miller served an ace before a hitting error by Clinton ended the game.
“We just had some situations where we had chances to finish in Game 3, and obviously we didn’t,” Clinton coach Mark Massey said. “Then there were a couple of spots in Game 4 that got away from us.”
Clinton had appeared to right itself early in Game 4, taking a 6-5 lead early. But Theisen drilled a kill inside the back line that the Queens questioned and Miller followed with two aces for an 8-6 lead. Next, came another call questioned by the Queens, who argued that a PV kill had hit the antenna in front of the official.
The Queens never could overcome the 10-6 deficit.
“We gave them too many opportunities,” Massey said.
While the outcome wasn’t what he hoped for, Massey found little to fault. The two teams treated the large crowd to an exciting match full of outstanding action.
“It was fun to coach, too,” Massey said. “There weren’t too many errors. If there were aces, it was because somebody’s serving was tough. Good players made big plays.”
Many of them came from the Spartans’ back row, keeping the ball in play on excellent scoring chances for the Queens.
“We knew their libero (Morgan Watermann) would get everything, so we had to play short and play deep,” Matheny said.
The Spartans made more big plays than Clinton in Game 1, including aces from Paustian and Carter during a 7-1 run that took PV from down 12-11 to ahead 18-13.
But the Queens battled back in Game 2 despite falling behind 6-2.
A turning point came when PV was called for a violation after appearing to have a kill for a 12-10 lead.
Clinton took the lead for good at 15-14 on a kill by Wing, then Monique Harris finished an exciting rally with a kill to push the lead to 16-14.
Moments later, the Queens seized control by scoring five points in a row, including back-to-back kills by Wenzel (16 kills).
“Nobody plays perfect, but we played close to that for much of Game 2 and Game 3,” Massey said.
Unfortunately for the Queens (18-9), they still headed home with their second loss in seven MAC matches. They have little time to recover, though, with a home match Thurs-day vs. Davenport North.
“We can’t forget tonight,” Matheny said. “We’ve got to want our next games and work harder.”
Clinton sophomores fall
RIVERDALE — Pleasant Valley defeated Clinton 25-14, 25-18 in the sophomore game Tuesday.
Raven Jones had seven assists and two ace serves. Rhegan Paulsen and Cheyenne Johnson had three kills apiece, and Johnson had one ace.
CHS falls in JV action
RIVERDALE — McKenzie Petersen led Clinton with four kills in the River Queens’ 21-8, 21-15 loss to Pleasant Valley in junior varsity play Tuesday.
Shannon Shovlain added three kills; Jordan Nelson led Clinton with 11 assists and Hannah Dehner came up with six digs.