After suffering a loss to Pleasant Valley last week, the North Scott girls volleyball team needed a key win at Bettendorf to stay in the conference race.
The Lancers delivered in a big way on Tuesday night, sweeping the state-ranked Bulldogs, 25-20, 25-19, 25-22 in Mississippi Athletic Conference action.
Although there are still fives matches to be played in the MAC, North Scott has already faced two of the top teams in the conference and managed to come out with a split. The Lancers, ranked eighth in Class 4A, move to 2-1 in conference and 10-1 overall.
Beating the eighth-ranked team in Class 5A on its home floor is the biggest win, so far, in the early coaching career of the Lancers' Taryn VanEarwage.
"We worked super hard after PV last week because we were upset about that one," VanEarwage said. "We were really fired up to come in here and get a win."
North Scott used a time-tested approach to winning on the road in likely in any sport. The Lancers got ahead early and did not beat themselves with mistakes.
Behind strong net play from Kendall McNaull, the visitors jumped out to a 12-7 lead in the first set and led the rest of the way. The Lancers got big kills from Ella McLaughlin, Grace Graham, Lexi Richards and Emma Powell in the set as North Scott simply had too many weapons for the hosts at the net. McNaull had four kills and two blocks in the Game 1 win.
The Lancers got out ahead of Bettendorf 13-8 in the second set but this was not necessarily because of strong play at the net. The Bulldogs (7-3, 2-1 MAC) actually outhit the Lancers with 13 kills to nine in Game 2. But North Scott committed just four errors in the game to nine for the hosts. Because of the clean play, the Bulldogs did not get any closer to the Lancers in the second set.
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"We were mentally checked into the game the whole time and we did not make a lot of mistakes," VanEarwage said. "PV got us a lot on tip (kills) so we really worked on communicating as a whole so we were able to get to all those balls. The girls did a really nice job of not letting anything get down."
Bettendorf looked like it might push the match to a fourth set as North Scott did have some error issues in the third game and the Bulldogs got some big kills from Johnaizjha Angel. Angel led Bettendorf in the match with 10 kills and the Bulldogs led 19-17.
But Powell, McLaughlin and McNaull started to assert authority at the net again and the Lancers eventually pulled ahead 21-20. The visitors then closed things out with kills from McLaughlin, McNaull and Powell. Paige Blaskovich's ace clinched the match and set off celebrations near North Scott's bench.
"We really prepared in practice for this match and we got it done," Powell said. "After losing to Pleasant Valley, we knew that we had to kick it into a higher gear and win this match. Since this is a big rivalry, everyone brought a lot of energy and played really well."
Powell led North Scott with 14 kills and 11 digs. McNaull added 10 kills and three blocks while Blaskovich had 14 digs. Sam Lee ran the offense with 21 assists and also had nine digs. Maesa Harris had seven kills and Claudia Johnson added six kills for the hosts. Riley Deere finished with 14 digs while Maggie Erpelding chipped in 12 digs. Erpelding also had 14 assists. Abbey VanMiddlesworth had 15 assists for the Bulldogs while Erica Smith contributed 12 digs.
Bettendorf coach Diane Lichtenberg said not being able to get a consistent block on the Lancers' attack was a big factor in the defeat.
"We didn't make adjustments to what they were doing and our block had to be huge tonight and it wasn't," she said. "North Scott has some very nice hitters, across the board, and they really covered the floor well defensively and they got to a lot of balls. I thought coming off the weekend, we had some nice wins and even when we didn't win, we played solid. We definitely have some things to clean up."