Although the scoreboard ultimately favored North Scott at night’s end, Muscatine volleyball coach Tim Martin believes his team is on the brink of turning the corner.
“We are right on that verge of being a really good team,” Martin said.
However, the Muskie volleyball coach knows there is still much to improve on for his team, such as consistency, first-ball kills and serve receive rotation. All three of those things were issues in a 25-13, 24-26, 25-12, 25-16 loss to the Class 4A No. 4 Lancers Wednesday night in Muscatine.
In the opening set, there was no indication Wednesday's Mississippi Athletic Conference matchup would be a competitive one. North Scott (20-4, 5-1 MAC) never trailed in the opening set and cruised to a 25-13 win.
The Lancers rode strong serving throughout the night, but it was especially present in the first set. North Scott finished the match with seven aces, three of which came from sophomore Samantha Lee.
“Serving is something we’ve been working on in practice to get a little more consistent and get more pace to get aces,” North Scott coach Taryn VanEarwage said. “That’s something we struggled with in the beginning of the season.”
However, it was the Muskies’ serving that stole the show in the second set. Muscatine (6-12, 1-5 MAC) entered the night with the plan to be aggressive with each serve. That’s exactly what senior Hannah Wieskamp did as she helped Muscatine rattle off six straight points with three aces and three big serves for a 12-6 lead in the second set.
“(Wieskamp) has always had that aggressive serve,” Martin said. “We talked about being more aggressive with our serving and I think it paid off for us.”
The Muskies’ block came alive in the set, too, as senior Hannah Reynolds tallied all three of her blocks to spark the team. With the offense and defense both in rhythm, Muscatine stretched its lead to 18-10.
The Lancers battled back to tie the score at 24 behind Ella McLaughlin, who led the team with 14 kills. But Muskie junior Kaylynn Salyars found a hole in their defense to give Muscatine a 25-24 lead. Then, junior Madi Petersen smacked one of her team-high 16 kills to clinch the set.
Kaylynn Salyars finished the match with 23 assists and 19 digs, and set up Petersen on a majority of her attacks.
“Madi was going against (North Scott’s) shorter outside blocker,” Martin said. “Those are the kinds of things we tell our setters to look at.”
However, North Scott showed the resolve of a top-five team in the next two sets. Muscatine jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the third, but North Scott rattled off the next six points and never trailed again in the match.
“We play one good game, battle and come out on top, and then we turn around and get stuck in a serve receive situation,” Martin said. “All of the sudden we’re six points down. That’s hard to come back from.
Still, Martin couldn’t be happier with the progress he’s seen. In the last nine days, Muscatine has taken a set off a pair of ranked MAC schools and played one of the better weekend tournaments Martin can remember in his tenure as coach.
“I think the way they’ve been playing is nothing short impressive,” Martin said. “There’s no quit in those girls.”