Clinton had an inauspicious start to the volleyball season.
A combination of a rugged Mississippi Athletic Conference schedule —Bettendorf, North Scott and Davenport Assumption — and an unsettled lineup resulted in a 2-5 start.
Coach Micah Cewe knew it would take some time for his team to gel with many new players in new spots on the court.
Things started to click last weekend.
Clinton compiled a 5-0 mark to claim its home invitational at Yourd Gymnasium. The River Queens avenged their loss to Assumption from earlier in the week with a 21-17, 12-21, 15-8 victory.
"We knew our girls had the ability," Cewe said. "It really came down to a trust issue with the players and coaches. It required everyone to buy in, from our bench to our subs to those out on the court.
"Everyone bought in on Saturday. We had some grueling practices Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to prepare us. We played at a high level consistently."
In addition to the win over Assumption, Clinton (7-5) swept Central DeWitt, Dubuque Senior, Davenport Central and United Township.
Cewe said his team established confidence in pool play. That carried over to the semifinal and championship matches.
"We just played with a different swagger, a different attitude and it just felt like things worked," Cewe said.
Sophomore setter Brooke Mulholland was named the most valuable player of the tournament after recording 72 assists in 11 sets. Six-foot-5 Iowa recruit Grace Tubbs joined her on the all-tournament team.
"Ever since Brooke joined our varsity this summer, we knew she had a lot of potential," Cewe said, "but we also knew there would be some growing pains. Her volleyball IQ, her passion and her competitiveness is an all-time high.
"She hates to lose, maybe more than anybody I've ever coached."
Cewe believes his team might have found a lineup, too. Through the first seven matches of the season, Clinton used seven or eight different combinations. It led to inconsistency.
"It took some time to click but hopefully this was the beginning of us clicking," said Cewe, whose team plays host to Class 5A seventh-ranked Pleasant Valley tonight. "I'm hoping this lineup can give us more wins."
Comeback trail: Assumption cross country runner Julia Schumacher has not competed in a varsity race yet this season.
Schumacher, who has been top 10 at the Class 3A state meet each of the past three seasons, is recovering from a stress fracture that occurred during the track and field season last spring.
After three months of biking and swimming along with running on a limited basis the past few weeks, the senior participated in her first race since May 21 last Tuesday at the North Scott Invitational in the junior varsity competition. She won the 5,000-meter race in 21 minutes, 10 seconds.
The plan is to have Schumacher make her varsity debut this weekend at the Griak meet in Minnesota.
Golf title up for grabs: The MAC boys golf tournament will be contested this weekend at Kewanee Dunes.
Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley, Muscatine and North Scott are among the league frontrunners.
The Bulldogs won the 11-team Grayhound Invitational in Burlington on Monday thanks to top-three finishes from Trever Rogan and Benny Flanagan. PV has three freshmen among its top six.
Muscatine, which finished two strokes behind Assumption for last year's title, has a strong nucleus of seniors led by Bryce Howard.
The 36-hole meet commences Friday morning. The final round is slated for 9 a.m. Saturday.