There has been very little to cheer about the past several seasons for fans of Davenport West volleyball.
The program did not win a match in 2019. It did not even claim a set in 18 matches in 2020.
“It has been tough,” senior Abbey Smith said, “but you’ve just got to keep on kicking and keep getting better. That’s the whole point of going to practice every day.”
Its perseverance paid off Tuesday night.
After 46 consecutive match losses dating back to October 2018, West ended the skid in emphatic fashion against one of its biggest rivals.
West swept city-rival Davenport North 25-23, 25-16, 25-17 at North High School to halt a string of 21 straight Mississippi Athletic Conference defeats.
“This is just magical to me,” West setter Faith Rettler said. “It has not even processed in my head we just beat (another) team.”
Since sweeping Burlington, which was still a member of the MAC, in the next-to-last regular season match three years ago, West had dropped 119 of its last 122 sets.
A coaching change transpired, but the belief never wavered.
“We kept believing in our team, and that’s what kept us going,” Rettler said. “I never lost hope for this team. Nobody on this team gave up.”
It was the first win for first-year head coach Christina Groesch, who had seen signs of growth along the way this season.
The Falcons took a set earlier this season at the Ankeny tournament against Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln. They reached 20 points in the opening set versus Muscatine last Tuesday.
“It means the world to these girls,” Groesch said. “They have been seeing their improvement, just not the end result of the win. They could tell every day they’re getting better.
“They’re believing if they follow a discipline, if they follow the team work mentality, they can win.”
West (1-6, 1-2 MAC) used a 9-0 flurry midway through the opening set to seize control. It reeled off eight points in a row in the second set to build a 21-13 margin.
Rettler facilitated the offense with 19 assists. Alexandria Petersen led the Falcons with eight kills and Sydney Westerhof had four of her six kills in the middle set. Mya Verdon unleashed seven service aces.
Libero Abbigail Raes led the defense with a dozen digs and Halee Clare registered two blocks.
“We have a lot more energy and more presence in being ready to play every game,” Smith said. “Everyone wants to be here, wants to play and is ready to win.”
The Falcons scored 13 of the first 18 points in the third set to push them near the finish line.
When North’s final attack landed into the net, the dreaded streak was off West’s back.
Hugs and high-fives were exchanged. Several of the West players raised their arms in jubilation toward the visiting crowd.
“Playing the past three years and not winning anything, it is a great feeling right now,” Rettler said.
Groesch is starting to see her team's confidence grow.
“I believe they know they can play well together,” she said. “They’re believing in each other and having confidence in each other where before it was more individualistic play.”
North (0-5, 0-2) is experiencing its own growing pains right now.
Heath Donath resigned as head coach recently. Kaela Moeller, a 2013 North graduate, has taken over on an interim basis. Tuesday was her first match leading the Wildcats.
“Our biggest issue right now is putting all the pieces together,” Moeller said. “We have a string of 10 great plays and then we have a string of 10 bad ones. We have to break those up and cut the other team’s runs.
“We have a really young team with four sophomores in our starting lineup. We have a strong platform to build on in the years coming, but we want to give our two seniors a really great final year as well.”