CEDAR RAPIDS — They’re not just losses. They’re lessons.
And though Mount Vernon’s record is relatively modest for reaching this level, the Mustangs are playing like a team nobody wants to face.
Rory Light clobbered 21 kills — against just two errors — and ninth-ranked Mount Vernon sidelined No. 3 MOC-Floyd Valley in a four-set Class 3A quarterfinal (26-24, 25-11, 23-25, 25-18) at the state volleyball tournament Wednesday afternoon at the U.S. Cellular Center.
“We have the most losses of anybody here, and we kind of take pride in that,” Light said. “Those were good teams we lost to, and all of them have allowed us to get better.”
A team that seems to be picking up steam in each round, Mount Vernon (28-15) advances to the semifinal round against No. 2 Tipton (38-3) at 2 p.m. Thursday. Despite their close proximity (they’re 25 miles apart), the teams did not meet in the regular season.
Mount Vernon finished 3-3 in the Wamac Conference East Division and took some lumps in some high-level tournaments. The Mustangs got pushed to the brink in the first round of regionals, outlasting Benton Community in five sets.
And now, they’re two wins away from a state championship.
“Our regional-final win was the most rewarding one I’ve had,” Mount Vernon Coach Maggie Willems said. “This team is pure joy to coach.”
The nucleus is full of sophomores, but Light and Ella Brase are seniors, and the veterans lifted the team.
“I think my previous experience here was an advantage for me,” said Light, who posted a .559 kill efficiency while dealing with one of the taller opponents the Mustangs have faced this season. “We did a good job of executing.”
Mount Vernon jumped on MOC-Floyd Valley (28-8) early before hanging on to win the opener. After the Dutch erased a 20-13 deficit to tie it at 24-all, Annie Rhomberg and Brase swatted back-to-back kills to give the Mustangs the set.
The Mustangs stormed through Game 2 but let an opportunity to sweep slip away; the Dutch scored the final three points of Game 3 after trailing 23-22.
“That didn’t really fluster us,” Willems said. “We were ready to go play the fourth set.”
Mount Vernon was clinging to an 18-17 lead, then Light smacked four kills and a match-ending 7-1 run.
Somewhere in those 15 losses this season, the Mustangs came up with a slogan.
“We were going to start playing for the person next to us instead of just playing for ourselves,” said Brase, who collected 12 kills and 26 assists.
Camryn Ellyson added 10 kills.
Jazlin De Haan posted 19 kills for the Dutch.
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