MOUNT VERNON — They played to win. They played to advance. And, Rory Light said, the Mount Vernon Mustangs played for each other.
“That’s what got us back in the right mindset,” Light said. “Playing for each other.”
With Coach Maggie Willems on medical leave, ninth-ranked Mount Vernon strung together nine consecutive points early in the fifth set and outlasted Benton Community, 18-25, 31-29, 25-18, 18-25, 15-11, in a Class 3A volleyball regional quarterfinal Wednesday night at Mount Vernon High School.
“Before the fifth set, we talked about playing for each other, for the right to come to practice tomorrow,” said Mustangs assistant Robin Brand, in charge of the team until Willems returns — which might be in time for the Mustangs’ regional-semifinal showdown with Solon (22-17) on Tuesday.
In a back-and-forth match full of momentum swings, two moments stood out.
After dropping the first set, Mount Vernon let a seven-point lead slip away in the second. Benton (22-18) scored four straight points for a 25-24 lead, the first of three set points for the Bobcats.
The Mustangs erased them all, and Light collected four kills down the stretch. Annie Rhomberg’s kill gave the Mustangs the set and evened the match.
“If we wouldn’t have won (that set), I don’t think we’d have won the match,” Light said.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
The other moment of reckoning came early in the fifth set. Summer Brand served two aces — and collected her only kill of the match — in a nine-point run for a 9-1 lead. The Bobcats inched back, getting as close as 14-11, but ran out of time.
“We battled,” Benton Coach Michael Embretson said after the Bobcats concluded their first winning season since 2008. “It was just too far back to come.”
Light finished with 17 kills for the winners, Natalie Welch added 12, and Ella Brase posted nine kills and 27 assists.
Benton’s Abby Brunssen and Grace Martensen led all hitters with 19 kills apiece. Martensen added six aces and several circus saves.
MOUNT VERNON 3, BENTON COMMUNITY 2 (18-25, 31-29, 25-18, 18-25, 15-11)
3A Regional Quarterfinal, at Mount Vernon
Serving — Benton 103-109 (.944), Mount Vernon 97-107 (.907)
Aces — Benton 13 (Grace Martensen 6), Mount Vernon 4 (Summer Brand 2)
Kills — Benton 52 (Martensen, Abby Brunssen 19), Mount Vernon 64 (Rory Light 17)
Assists — Benton 48 (Grace Embretson 43), Mount Vernon 59 (Brand 30)
Blocks — Benton 7 (Brunssen 3), Mount Vernon 6 (Light 3)
l Comments: (319) 368-8857; email@example.com