By Jon Gremmels Herald Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — It’s difficult to measure success in wins and losses for coach Tori Matzen and her Clinton Community College volleyball team.
Matzen has just eight players on the team — three of whom were on the roster a year ago, another who played for the team in 2011 and twins Paige and Liz Sanquist who last played as high school seniors for Fulton in 2010.
But, the Cougars can see things getting better each time out.
“We’ve gotten better every single day,” Matzen said.
“We’ve definitely come along better now than in the beginning,” Paige Sanquist said.
In her estimation, Wednesday night was a step in the right direction even though the St. Ambrose junior varsity beat Clinton CC for third time this season, winning 25-20, 25-17, 19-25, 26-24 at Yourd Gymnasium.
“As long as we play good, I’m happy,” Sanquist said. “You like to win every game, but we’ll take what we can get. I think we played good. If we played like we did in Game Four, I think we would have won in three games.”
The Cougars (3-15-1) were at their best in the final two games, winning the third set and coming back to tie the fourth at 24 before the Queen Bees scored the final two points.
St. Ambrose appeared on the way to a three-game sweep when it scored the first four points of the third set. But, the Cougars responded with four in a row, tying the match when Paige Sanquist (41 assists) set up her sister for a hard kill from the left side.
St. Ambrose reclaimed the lead on the next point, but Clinton pulled even on a kill from sophomore Kiara Williams, who didn’t play last year, and went ahead on a kill by freshman Keveena Wattley, who had a team-high 19, and one of her team-best four blocks on the next rally.
The Cougars maintained the edge until the Bees ran off five straight points with Meridyth Bates serving to go ahead 12-9. Once again, CCC battled back. It outscored St. Ambrose 9-1 to take the lead for good. Paige Sanquist assisted on a Wattley kill in the middle that gave the Cougars a 15-14 lead, then she scored the next point on a setter dump.
“Our intensity was really high, and all those kills really help,” Sanquist said. “The intensity helps.”
Matzen said: “We give that little bit extra effort and get the lead. That’s the team I’d like to see the whole time. We have the talent, we just need the mental part to get there.”
St. Ambrose got the early momentum in the fourth set when Cassie Rio capped a four-point run with an ace that put the Bees up 7-2. Later, she added two more aces in a seven-point run after CCC pulled within 13-11.
The Cougars refused to let the Queen Bees win with ease, though. They responded with a 4-1 run, then scored five in a row to get within 22-21. They capped the run with a double block by Joce Sikkema and Williams.
St. Ambrose scored the next two, with a tip by Rio putting the Bees within a point of winning. Once again, CCC battled back. The Cougars scored three in a row, including a service point by Nysha Lindo and a kill by Sikkema, a sophomore from Fulton, that tied it 24. SAU finally finished it off, though, taking advantage of two CCC errors for the 26-24 win.
“Just a few things didn’t go our way, but I liked the way we made the comeback,” Matzen said. “In a couple of weeks, we’ll win that game.”
She wasn’t quite so pleased with what she saw earlier in the match, even though the Cougars stayed close with the Bees in each of the first two games.
“I’d like to see a little more energy from the very beginning,” she said. “I understand (the situation with the short bench and players who haven’t played a lot together), but a loss still hurts our confidence. Once we find confidence ... . I’ve seen moments of greatness.”
The first set featured eight ties and nine lead changes early, including five leads for the Cougars. A four-point run, which included three CCC miscues, put SAU on top 15-12, but the Cougars rallied and pulled even for the set’s ninth tie before a CCC hitting error put the Bees ahead to stay at 18-17.
The Cougars did get within 22-20 when the Sanquists combined for a kill and sophomore Nicole VanHorn of Prophetstown, Ill., followed with an ace. But Rio started a final four-point run for SAU with a kill that took an ugly bounce off the net and fell in.
The second set was the most dominant of the four. St. Ambrose scored the first three points, getting kills from Rio and Bates around a CCC error, and led all the way. The closest the Cougars got was 4-2 on a Liz Sanquist kill and 7-3 on a Wattley block.
“We were never out of the game; we just need that extra push to get us going,” Matzen said.
ST. AMBROSE JV 25-25-19-26, CLINTON CC 20-17-25-24
Clinton CC statistical leaders
Kills — Keveena Wattley 19, Nysha Lindo 11, Liz Sanquist 10, Joce Sikkema 4, Kiara Williams 2, Paige Sanquist 2. Assists — P. Sanquist 41. Digs — Lindo 23, Nicole VanHorn 18, Wattley 8. Blocks — Wattley 4, Sikkema 3, Williams 3. Aces — Lindo 1, Williams 1, L. Sanquist 1, VanHorn 1.
More photos online To view more photos from Wednesday's match, take a look at the photo gallery online at Clintonherald.smugmug.com.