The Pleasant Valley volleyball team was hoping to claim its first outright Mississippi Athletic Conference championship since 2003 against Davenport Assumption on Monday night.
Assumption did not cooperate with those plans.
Playing with no pressure and high energy, the visiting Knights knocked off the Spartans, 25-22, 25-18, 25-22 in the regular-season finale for both teams.
The biggest benefactor after this was Bettendorf, which defeated Davenport Central on Monday. The Spartans and Bulldogs will share the title after both teams finished 8-1 in the league. It is the Bulldogs fifth-straight MAC crown while PV earned its first title since 2012.
This is the fourth time Pleasant Valley (27-4) has shared the conference title. The Spartans shared it with North Scott in 2012, three other teams in 2011 and two other teams in 2008. The 2003 team went undefeated in MAC play.
Pleasant Valley coach Amber Hall said it was good her team won a piece of the MAC but took nothing away from an Assumption team that looked determined after missing out on its chance at the title with a home loss to North Scott last week. The Knights (25-8) finished in a third place tie with North Scott at 7-2 in league play.
"They are a great team. They outworked us and they wanted it more," Hall said of the Knights. "(Assumption) put up a great block and they are a great defensive team, hats off to them."
Assumption won the match by keeping the hosts from getting any kind of big offensive runs going. The front-line block of Carly King, Anna Vonderhaar and Maddy Mayeski stifled PV's attack. Just that trio combined for 17 blocks at the net, led by King who finished with seven. Lindsay Stratman and Erika Martin also were huge in keeping PV in check at the net.
Elissa Moylan did put up 12 kills for the Spartans but none of the Spartans' other hitters came close to double digits. In the back row, Anna Corlett (15 digs), Kylie Welch (13 digs) and Emma VanSeveren (11 digs) kept rallies alive.
"That's what we have worked on these last few practices, to be as error-free as possible, to be tough at the net and to be as tough defensively as we could be," Assumption coach Bre Scherler said. "I told them to just play and play with passion and have fun, there is no pressure on us. We can take the momentum from this and move on with it to regionals. It was a reminder to the girls that they can compete, at this level, and with one of the best teams in the state."
Offensively, Stratman was nearly unstoppable. The senior outside hitter put up match-high 19 kills and committed one hitting error on her kill attempts. But Stratman quickly gave credit to her setters, Lea Nelson (24 assists) and Lauren Dilulio (10 assists) for getting her into position to convert. Vonderhaar (eight kills) and Welch (five kills) also were key in the attack.
"They were great," Stratman said of her teammates. "They gave me perfect sets all night. I could not be happier. This is the best we've played all season."
When asked if Bettendorf should send the Knights a 'Thank You' card for the effort, Stratman laughed and said the team had other things to worry about.
"Our focus was to come out and play our best game," she said. "We didn't care if we won or lost, we just wanted to give a great effort and everyone did."
None of the games were blowouts but Assumption only trailed twice in any of the games and were able to get key runs when they needed them. Tied at 21 in the first game, the Knights put away four of the final five points behind kills from Vonderhaar, Welch and Stratman.
When Game 2 was knotted at 16-16, Welch used a powerful serve and three aces to help the Knights out to a 23-17 lead which they eventually finished off. Blocks and kills from King, Martin, Stratman and Vonderhaar again proved too much for the hosts.
Spartans senior Kelsey Ruff, like her coach, said the Knights were just too strong on this night. Ruff and Adrea Arthofer led PV with 17 digs each. Brooke Harris finished with 25 assists.
"Assumption seemed more focused," Ruff said. "There were times, we shanked a pass and we could not move on quick enough from that. We needed to outwork them but we couldn't get anything going. Assumption played super scrappy. It still is awesome to be co-MAC champs."