It was sweltering inside Pleasant Valley’s gymnasium Tuesday night. The atmosphere was electric. The match was like a prize fight between two heavyweights, neither wanting to budge.
After nearly two hours of exchanging long rallies and wiping moisture off the gym floor from the humidity, PV survived the battle of attrition.
The Class 5A seventh-ranked Spartans scored the final six points of the match to end eighth-ranked Bettendorf’s 42-match Mississippi Athletic Conference win streak, 25-23, 25-19, 16-25, 23-25, 15-11. It set off a raucous celebration afterward on the court.
“It was like watching history,” PV setter Brooke Harris said. “It was so loud, so crazy and so fun. My heart was pounding. Our entire team poured our hearts into this one.”
PV (23-2, 7-0 MAC) has the inside track for its first league title since 2012. The Spartans can wrap it up with victories over Burlington and Davenport Assumption in the next two weeks.
The Spartans rallied to take the opening set and dictated the last half of the second set to build a 2-0 margin.
Bettendorf, which hadn’t lost a conference match since falling to Clinton in the 2012 regular-season finale, stormed back to take the next two sets.
In a race to 15 in the final set, there were five lead changes.
Bettendorf, in fact, led 11-9 after Lita Solbrig and Jordan Ratigan kills.
“Coach (Amber) Hall in the huddle told us, ‘Give it your all. This is our time to shine and time to break the (streak),'" PV senior Elissa Moylan said.
That determination carried the Spartans to the finish line.
After PV collected a sideout, Harris stepped behind the service line and rattled off the final five points of the match.
Harris had an ace and sophomore Erica Brohm delivered three kills in that span, including one on match point, to seal it.
“We believe in each other, we believe in ourselves and we believe in what we need to do,” Brohm said. “We all had a belief that we were going to pull it out.”
Harris, who had a match-high 48 assists, relished having the ball behind the service line in the pressure moment.
“When I was back to serve, I just thought back to practice,” Harris said. “The crowd didn’t faze me. I just blocked it out. I was going to serve to the seam and get the ball in.”
It was PV’s first best-of-five win over Bettendorf since Sept. 11, 2012.
“This means a lot,” Brohm said. “We’ve been working in practice for this match. This is the one we’ve been looking forward to because it has been so long since we’ve beaten them.”
The Spartans had considerable success feeding the middle.
Brohm had 19 kills and four blocks. When she was covered up, Moylan had success on the outside. She finished with a match-high 20 kills.
“This team is such a team of fighters,” Hall said. “We’ve been in pressure situations like this before in tournaments. We have a very good poise about it and we don’t get too high or too low."
Adrea Arthofer and Kelsey Ruff led PV’s defense with 20 and 19 digs, respectively.
“I thought PV really covered the court well and the middles were very active,” Bettendorf coach Diane Lichtenberg said. “I was certainly proud of our group coming back. We could have thrown in the towel after those first two sets.
“When you get to that fifth set and you’re playing to 15, it is an error here, an error there. You just can’t make those mistakes, but I’m proud of how we fought. Give PV a lot of credit.”
Ratigan and Carolina Baer led Bettendorf’s balanced offense with 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Grace Erpelding had nine kills, 25 assists, and five blocks for the visitors.
Solbrig had a career-high nine blocks.
“Our goal wasn’t to keep the streak going this season,” Erpelding said. “Our goal was to have a good, long season and make it to the final rounds of the state tournament. We can still do that.”
Lichtenberg admitted it was quite a run for her program, going nearly five years between conference losses.
“That’s what you see in movies,” she said. “I’m pretty proud of that accomplishment. It just shows the hard work and competitive spirit these girls showed to come ready to go every match for that long.”
That’s why PV was beaming afterward. The Spartans knew this was an extraordinary moment.
The Spartans quickly pointed out they can’t let this be the defining moment of their season.
“We might see them again,” Harris said. “It isn’t about ending the streak, it is more about being in the point of our season where we can say, ‘Wow we did this. We can do even more.’
"I’m excited to see what more can come of this season for us.”