MAQUOKETA – It wasn’t always pretty and it wasn’t their best, but the Clinton volleyball team pulled out a road sweep to open up their 2019 postseason campaign against Maquoketa.
The shaky 3-0 win (25-21, 25-23, 25-20) was only the third sweep of a five-game match for the River Queens this season and their first since Oct. 3.
After the last point fell with an out of bounds tip by Maquoketa, head coach Micah Cewe had one thing to say: “Glad to be moving on.”
By record alone, Maquoketa seemed to have the edge on Clinton with over twice the number of wins on their record. Clinton came out confident, especially with a four-game Mississippi Athletic Conference winning streak finishing off their year.
“We knew what we needed to do and our girls were prepared,” Cewe said. “We didn’t play our greatest volleyball tonight, but it’s been a while since in a best-of-five match we were able to sweep and opponent. That’s a huge positive for us.”
The night started with two consecutive Cardinal points, but then Kaylee Camp hit a slide and put it away. That plus some serving from Brooke Mulholland sent the Queens on a 5-0 run.
The game wasn’t tied up again until 16-16. But Clinton kept rattling off points from a plethora of sources including dumps over the net from setter Brooke Mulholland, a pair of kills from Navaeh Wagoner and a big block from middle Kaylee Camp.
They came out strong in Set 2 as well, jumping to a 7-2 lead quick. Similarly to the first set, their 7-point lead at one point dwindled with the comeback effort from the Cardinals and the Queens were on the ropes again.
“We built those big leads early on and we kept telling them during timeouts that we have to capitalize, we have to get points off of our serve,” Cewe said. “We just let them back in in all three sets, but we were able to finish sets which is good.”
Maquoketa even took a lead at 23-22, before Bailey Wing hit a kill off a block to tie it up. They closed it out with three straight points.
Set 3? You guessed it. The Queens came out confident again and saw Maquoketa get close, but this time closed it out with a 5-point cushion.
The Queens dug up 64 from the Cardinals, led by a stellar defensive performance by Lakin Houzenga (16 digs). Both Rylie Mussman and Brooke Mulholland also dug up 12, adding to an overall scrappy effort that kept the Queens attacking.
Although there were lapses, there were also moments of brilliance that kept the Queens accumulating points.
“We were shaky at times, I think there were some nerves,” Cewe said. “Since we’re not a huge, massive team that terminates a lot we rely on our defense,” Cewe said. “When our defense plays scrappy and well, we give our offense more opportunities to take swings and get points.”
Plus, after a slow start the block started to come together. Kaylee Camp ended with four blocks and Kelly Clark with three in a nine-block effort by the Queens.
They knew they had to do some work to take on the fifth highest kill count in Class 4A.
“We had a lot of good touches,” Cewe said. “We knew we had to slow down number four (Nell Sybesma), and I think we did a decent job of that tonight.”
The offense also kept themselves spread out. There were moments where each of the Queens’ arms let loose and made a big play. Wagoner ended up with nine kills on the night, while Wing put away seven, Clark six and Makenzie Cooley another five.
“To win in the postseason we need everyone to step up,” Cewe said. “We haven’t had a go-to person all year so to have contributions from Kelly, from our middles, from our outsides, it’s what we need.”
Clinton (12-22) will travel to Clear Creek-Amana (23-14) next Tuesday to take on the Class 4A Region 7 semifinals.