CLINTON – The Clinton volleyball team knew that welcoming an undefeated Mississippi Athletic Conference opponent to Yourd Gymnasium was going to be a challenge.
And it was.
The match up ended up in a Spartan sweep, even with the River Queens putting up a fight through the first two sets. Pleasant Valley walked away with the 25-22, 25-18, 25-12 win.
“I think it’s just learning how to win,” head coach Micah Cewe said. “We haven’t learned how to win yet ... with just three wins on the season. We’ve seen a tough MAC stretch with four teams being ranked, and we haven’t been able to beat them. We just need to find ways to be more consistent.”
The River Queens came out with energy, working with 3-point leads for the majority of the first set. The attack looked solid and the defense was scrappy from start to finish.
They were playing clean – leaving plenty of space for the Spartans to make errors, which they did.
The Spartans didn’t take a lead until they pulled ahead 15-14. Even then, it was a battle to the end, including huge blocks from Makenzie Cooley and Kelly Clark.
“Those errors helped us out in that first set, and then we earned a couple points,” Cewe said. “We were getting some quality touches. We told them we have to be quick with our hands, we have to press hard, and they have a couple kids who can swing hard and aggressive.”
Even though the Spartans closed out the set, the block continued to impress in the second. Pleasant Valley jumped out to a lead this time around, but Clinton managed to stay within in four or five points for most of the game.
A couple of bad serve receive rotations got the Queens. A number of aces landed in front of the River Queen defense, and the Spartans managed to keep extending their lead until the 25th point.
“We don’t have to be the tallest team in the world, but we always try to preach serve receive and passing,” Cewe said. “There’s not one day that goes by where we don’t practice serve receive. We have to be able to pass.”
Clinton made a run for Pleasant Valley at the end, picking up the defense with some scrappy diving plays and quick movement, but the lead had been built up too much to cover.
The third set looked like an entirely different team from the Clinton side of the net. And not in a good way.
“We lost our fight and lost our fire in that third set,” Cewe said.
The No. 7 team in Class 5A showed why they’re ranked so high with some heavy swings and big blocks, while the River Queens lost their aggression.
Kills were landing for Pleasant Valley, and Clinton couldn’t get a good swing off.
Not to mention that with the lengthy Spartan block in from of them, everything they did get a swing at seemed to land right back on their side of the court.
“That’s part of staying disciplined as a team,” Cewe said about covering the hitters. “We have to stay disciplined and we have to cover. We always have to be ready to cover that block.”
Aces, kills and blocks littered the final set and Pleasant Valley ran away with it.
The Clinton River Queens (3-12, 0-4) will travel to Iowa City Liberty High School this weekend for another tournament, before returning to MAC play next Tuesday with a game against Davenport North (5-14) at home.