Rockridge High School's Kierney McDonald and Morgan McClain could not attend last week's lone practice for the Iowa versus Illinois Senior All-Star match because of a basketball conflict.
So when they walked into the gym at Beyond the Baseline on Monday night for the seventh annual volleyball match between the bordering states, it was somewhat of an awkward experience.
"It was kind of hard to come in and be like, 'Hey, my name is Kierney and let's play volleyball together,'" McDonald said. "Still, it was a fun time.
"I've watched on the sidelines for the last three or four years, so when I got the email to say I had been selected, it was really, really special. It was kind of like a full circle moment."
Iowa remained perfect in the event with a 25-19, 25-18, 26-24 victory. The result was secondary afterward.
It was a night reserved for forming friendships, rekindling old ones and making memories.
Besides a volleyball match that lasted around 90 minutes, there was a dance off between the two sides between sets. That ended in a draw.
Afterward, the sides came together and posed for photographs.
"These are memories I'm going to have forever and I'll be able to tell everyone about," Rock Island senior Emily Allison said. "Hopefully, some of my (younger) teammates from high school were here and it inspires them to continue on and get here one day.
"The dancing and everything, it just adds fun to it."
Illinois was competitive throughout the match. It struggled closing out sets.
Iowa used a 5-1 flurry late in the first set to seize control. It broke free from a 19-17 score in the second set with six of the last seven points.
Illinois had four set points in the third set, but Iowa erased a 24-19 deficit with seven consecutive points to close out the match.
"I don't know if it was because we were tired or got confused with things," Moline's Ella Ramsay said. "I felt for the most part we stayed composed and played a lot better than we thought we would.
"It was just fun to put on those knee pads and shoes one more time for high school."
Pleasant Valley's Arra Cottrell, who had 11 kills, said the Iowa side was reminded constantly of the win streak.
"It just shows our drive on the Iowa side," she said. "Illinois is a great team with great competitors. We had more weight on our backs (with the streak), but we handled it well."
Ramsay, off to play at Loyola Chicago next fall, had 13 kills to pace the Illinois side. Allison finished with seven and Geneseo's Hannah Copeland collected five. McDonald had several moments of brilliance at the net for Illinois with four kills and a pair of blocks.
Allison said she'll continue her volleyball career at Illinois Central College in Peoria while Copeland has signed with the University of Missouri St. Louis.
McDonald will be teammates and roommates with Assumption's Bri Gartner, a libero on the Iowa side Monday.
"Most of these kids we either know based on playing them in club or we play against them during the season," McDonald said. "To be on the same side as some of them was really, really cool."
Even with the lack of practice time and familiarity, Ramsay felt both sides handled it well.
"That's what it means to be an All-Star," she said, "being able to adapt to any situation you're in, trial and error through sets and points.
"You just need to figure it out as you go."