Davenport Assumption volleyball players Emma VanSeveren and Kylie Welch gave their team the edge when it was needed most.
VanSeveren set the tone for the Knights with her service to help Assumption defeat Clinton in the first game of Tuesday night's Mississippi Athletic Conference clash while Welch closed things out in the third game with her service play.
The Knights swept past the River Queens, 25-18, 25-22, 25-13, on their home floor to keep pace in the MAC race.
Assumption (7-1 overall, 4-0 MAC) joins Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley as the undefeated teams in the conference at nearly the midway point.
Although it was a sweep, the first two games were very competitive and could have gone either way. With the score tied at 16-16 in Game 1, VanSeveren stepped to the service line and proceeded to blister three straight aces at Clinton's defense. The River Queens called timeout but Van Severen's serve still made it difficult for the visitors to get anything going offensively.
The junior wound up serving six straight points for a 22-17 lead that the Knights were able to carry to the Game 1 win.
VanSeveren does not use a jump serve but the ball appeared to be coming at the defense at 100 mph. She said the rotation and her arm action to get the zip on the ball came from playing softball. VanSeveren finished with four aces for the match while Welch contributed five aces.
"It's just a matter of putting (the ball) where my coaches tell me," VanSeveren said of her serve. "We try to serve different zones and if you go out and see a certain spot that is open, you just go for it."
Assumption rallied from a 18-16 deficit in the second game behind strong net play from Welch and Carly King. In addition, Anna Corlett and Lea Nelson used strong serving for the Knights to help the team overcome.
Like a closer in baseball, Welch took it from there to start the third game. The sophomore outside hitter, who does use a jump serve, racked up three aces and served eight straight points to help Assumption build an 11-2 lead that was not challenged the rest of the way.
"We had really strong serving and not a lot of errors," Welch said. "It was just a great start with the serves. Coaches have been calling good zones and I've been really working on my serving. We really played as a team when we needed to, especially when we were down (in Game 2)."
Knights coach Bre Scherler said her team's strong serving just made everything else in the match seem a lot easier. The team finished with 13 aces during the match.
"Those are points that you can create as an individual and help push the momentum for the entire team," Scherler said. "It's something we've really been working hard on, knowing that if we can get those opportunities (aces), it takes a lot of stress off the defense and the offense. It was by far our best serving performance in the MAC."
Lindsay Stratman led the Knights with 12 kills while Anna Vonderhaar had 10 kills and four blocks. Vonderhaar had seven of her kills in the clinching set. Nelson chipped in 22 assists while Corlett led the way with 17 digs. VanSeveren also had a strong game defensively with 11 digs.
King contributed four blocks and Maddy Mayeski had three blocks.
Clinton (2-5, 1-3) was led by Grace Tubbs and Sarah Goldensoph, who each had six kills. Goldensoph also had three blocks. Brooke Mulholland had 18 assists and Cassandra Smith finished with 16 digs for the visitors. Mallory Melvin and Tubbs each had a pair of aces.
The River Queens showed how competitive they could be and all three of their MAC losses have come against the top tier of the conference. But Clinton coach Micah Cewe said there are areas to clean up.
"We just didn't pass very well tonight and that is something we are going to work on the next few days," Cewe said. "When you don't pass, you can't do a whole lot. When we pass, we can do some things and you saw some of those flashes tonight and that is what is frustrating. We talked about getting over that mental barrier. We can compete at a high level, now we just have to find ways to win sets."