The best volleyball action on a hot Saturday afternoon at Wharton Field House was definitely saved for the end.
Moline hosted Western Big 6 competitors Rock Island and Quincy in an early season triangular, and the Maroons used the competition to make a strong statement to their cross-town rivals and the rest of the conference with two-set victories over both the Rocks and the Blue Devils.
The late afternoon match featuring Moline and Rock Island was highly anticipated and energy-packed as the Maroons and Rocks met for the first time in the fall season. Moline utilized its trademark strong ball movement and power game at the net, taking advantage of Rocky’s service problems and unforced errors to build momentum in both sets and earn the 25-17, 25-20 victory.
“The match against Rock Island was just a great deal of fun, there was a whole lot of energy on the court from both teams, and we were able to settle in, play our game with discipline, and capture the momentum when we needed to,” said Moline coach Sarah Fetter. “The key for us is our mental approach, and we were able to focus, cover the entire court, and keep the ball in play for our setters to position our hitters and score some big points.”
With the two wins, Moline’s overall record improved to 8-2, and they remain on top of the Western Big 6 with a conference record of 5-0. Rock Island stands at 6-3 on the season, and 3-1 in the conference, and Quincy falls to 2-9 overall, and 1-4 in the WB6.
The first set in the Rock Island vs. Moline battle remained close, with early lead changes and the score tied at 8-8. The Maroons pulled into a 15-10 lead on power at the net from senior Ella Ramsay, and after a timeout called by Rocky coach Jacqueline Twing, an ace from Moline senior Carly Rouse put the home team up 16-10.
The Rocks, however, are also a power program with talent at every position, and back-to-back kills at the net by senior Grace Gustafson helped Rock Island regain some momentum with their large fan contingent cheering them on.
Moline’s teamwork and ball placement at the net proved to be too much for Rocky to overcome in the initial set, and a key block by junior Samantha Veto brought the Moline fans to their feet, putting the Maroons ahead, 21-14 on their way to the 25-17 win.
“We knew that Rock Island was going to come at us from the first serve, and put pressure on us consistently, so we remained focused on keeping the ball in play and taking advantage of our opportunities,” Moline’s senior leader Carly Rouse said after the match. “For me, I’m super excited to have a fall volleyball season during my senior year and just work on getting better with each match.”
If the Maroon fans thought their long-time rivals from the adjacent city would roll-over in the second set of the final match of the day, Coach Twing’s squad proved that they have tenacity to spare. Moline jumped out to a 7-1 lead on the serving of Ramsey and a block at the net by junior Caylee Brandes, but solid play by junior Sienna Mikaio for the Rocks in keeping the ball alive, and power at the net from Gustafson and sophomore Addie Bomelyn put Rock Island back in contention at 11-15.
The key stretch of the set occurred when both teams heightened their levels of play with exceptional points featuring multiple digs and saves. A powerful score from Rock Island junior Mari Churchill got the Rocks to within four points again at 18-22, but an equally explosive shot at the net from Ramsey, with a perfect assist from Rouse, put Moline ahead for good en route to the 25-20 win to seal the match for the Maroons.
In the battle with Rock Island, the Maroons were paced by Rouse with eight assists, three aces, two kills and three digs, Ella Ramsay with six kills, six digs, three aces and one block. Junior Megan DePoorter had 10 digs and two assists, Samantha Veto added four kills and two blocks, Caylee Brandes had four kills, and junior Gabrielle Tertipes chipped in eight assists.
Rock Island was led by Grace Gustafson with eight kills, six assists and three digs and Addie Bomelyn with six kills, seven assists, four digs and 1 ace. Mikaio added 12 digs and 5 assists, senior Sophia Sigler 5 kills and 3 blocks, and senior Emily Allison 9 assists and 4 digs.
“We took a step forward on the season today with straight set wins over Rock Island and Quincy, and I think the way we went after every ball and kept our team attitude and energy at high levels was the difference for us,” said Moline’s Megan DePoorter.
“Sure, it was somewhat disappointing to not be able to get the win against Moline, but I was also pleased with the way we were able to dominate Quincy,” said Rock Island coach Twing at the end of the afternoon. “We need to do a better job of taking care of the ball, and play more aggressively, especially on our third contact situations where we work to attack the net.”
Rock Island vs. Quincy
The triangular’s first match of the day, pitting the Rocks against the Quincy Blue Devils, was over in a flash. Rocky dominated the first set from the opening serve — an ace by Mari Churchill — and never looked back, leading by scores of 7-1 and 17-4 on the way to a 25-7 win.
The Rocks served the ball extremely well, with multiple aces from Sienna Mikaio and Bomelyn, and power scoring at the net was provided by Bomelyn, junior Nevaeh Robinson-Cunningham, junior Kayla Rice and Emily Allison.
Rocky’s domination continued over Quincy in the second set of the match. The Rocks led by scores of 7-1 and 13-4 while rolling to a 25-10 win to capture the match. Again, Rock Island displayed power at the net, with Kayla Rice leading the charge in the middle of the set, scoring with power kills and push shots to the open floor. The final point of the set and match was scored by Emily Allison on a left corner kill to the base line of Quincy.
In the match, Rock Island was led by Kayla Rice with six kills and four assists and Bomelyn with four aces, seven kills, five digs and five assists. Allison had five kills, five assists and two blocks, Robinson-Cunningham four kills and three blocks, and Mikaio 11 digs and six assists.
Quincy’s contributors included senior Erin Wilson with five kills and three assists.
“We did a very good job of establishing the momentum and controlling the pace of the match against Quincy, and just as importantly, our service game was strong and put Quincy on the defensive, truly from the first point,” said Coach Twing. “As we progress in the season, our goal is work harder to establish the momentum with ball movement and control on the offensive side of the court.”
The middle match on the historic Wharton Field House court, featuring Moline and Quincy, was a tale of two mismatched sets. After getting blown out by Rock Island, Quincy coach Katelin Brown’s team showed in the first set that it can play with fire and determination, just like the powerhouse teams in the conference.
The Maroons staked out an early 5-1 lead on the net play of Ramsay and Brandes, but Quincy forced ball-control errors from Moline to climb back to 9-7, and kept the contest relatively close on an ace by junior Naveah Baker to close the gap to 16-12.
Fetter kept her team calm, though, and Moline embarked on a 9-2 run to win the set 25-14.
Carly Rouse put on a serving clinic during the second set, hitting every corner of the court with the kind of force and precision that made it nearly impossible for Quincy to do anything. Rouse compiled eight aces in serving the Maroons to an 18-0 lead, and Ramsay and Brandes maintained complete control of the net with kills and blocks as Moline took the set 25-2.
Quincy scored only 2 points in the set, one on a kill by senior Mayci Minor, and the other on a shot out of the court, over the back line by the Maroons. The final point for Moline was scored on a well-timed block at the net by Samantha Veto.
In the Quincy match, Moline was led by Rouse’s nine aces, seven digs, 14 assists and three kills. Ramsey also contributed six kills and seven digs. Brandes had 9 kills, DePoorter had 8 digs, Rylie Frazelle had 3 kills, and Tertipes contributed 6 assists, 3 digs and 2 aces.
“The second set against Quincy was almost unbelievable, I thought for a second or two that Carly would serve it out,” said Coach Fetter. “We played very well in all facets of the game, and going forward, we will be concentrating on learning from every match, searching for areas where we can improve, and building a strong team concept. Today was a good test for us, and we learned there are multiple ways to compete and win.”