During its Monday afternoon practice, several players on Davenport Assumption High School's volleyball team would get up close and yell at a teammate serving to disrupt their concentration.
There was a purpose for it.
Class 3A second-ranked Assumption has not played in too many noisy environments or been put in too many awkward situations this season.
Bettendorf provided both Tuesday night.
With vocal student sections on each side, Assumption overcame some shaky play in stretches and a spirited effort from Bettendorf to pull away for a 25-17, 18-25, 25-23, 25-14 win in a Mississippi Athletic Conference match at Bettendorf High School.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Assumption junior outside hitter Maggie Johnson said. “We have to get used to loud environments and how we adapt to it because it is like that at state. We were ready for it.”
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Behind 14 service aces and a balanced offensive attack, the Knights remained tied atop the MAC with North Scott and Pleasant Valley just past the midway point of the league race.
“It is imperative for us to be in some uncomfortable situations,” Assumption coach Frank Flanagan said. “We hope that’s the difference when we get to the 3A state tournament. Our conference prepares us the most for that.”
The Knights made plenty of miscues throughout the match with 11 service errors and attacks that sailed long.
“Our biggest thing when we see adversity right away, the other team has to deal with our aggressive nature for 75 to 100 points,” Flanagan said. “If things aren’t working in the first or second set because we’re making aggressive errors, we can’t abandon ship and go passive.
“We have to stay aggressive for as long as it takes and see if teams can deal with it for that long.”
Bettendorf (8-9, 1-4) hung around.
Ellie Erpelding notched a half-dozen kills in the second set and Lillie Petersen had five blocks. The Bulldogs' service pressure and defense created some tension for the Knights.
“It was one of our cleaner games behind the service line,” Bettendorf coach Mike Grannen said. “We put them out of system and they did the same to us. Our hitters were connecting well with our setters, and we seemed to be on point in sets one, two and three.”
Assumption (20-5, 5-0) broke free late in the third set to take a 24-20 advantage. Bettendorf dodged three set points, but Johnson had an emphatic kill to secure the set.
The Knights tallied 11 of the first 14 points in the fourth set after Grannen admitted he made an error turning in his lineup.
“I wrote down a different number on one of our outsides and we had a different lineup than we’ve ever worked with and there was some confusion,” Grannen said. “They worked the best with what we had.
“I botched that one and told the girls I take full responsibility.”
Bettendorf still battled back to 17-14, but Assumption scored the last eight points of the match to punctuate the win.
“We had (moments) of playing to our potential,” Flanagan said. “Credit to Mike because they didn’t have a great match against Muscatine last week, but his team responded really well. They dug a lot of really good balls and made us uncomfortable.”
Assumption's Ava Schubert finished with a match-high 15 kills, 12 digs, five blocks and three aces. Ava Harris-Shepard had 11 kills while Johnson chipped in 10 and Dru Dorsey collected eight.
Izzy Krogman led the Knights’ defense with 27 digs and unleashed four aces.
Sophomore Ellie Schubert facilitated the offense with 48 assists. She made a concerted effort to spread the ball around between the middle and the outsides.
“We’ve really worked hard on that middle connection,” Harris-Shepard said. “We still got a lot of work on, but it is going well.
“We all get to hit and we all get to show off our skills. It is fun.”
Olivia Wiley had 14 digs and Erpelding finished with 12 for the Bulldogs.