MARION — One of the driving questions of the Eastern Iowa volleyball scene in September was this:
What’s wrong with Mount Vernon?
“We battled frustration, injuries and illness,” Coach Maggie Willems said. “We went through a period of weeks that we didn’t have the same lineup on the court.
“The kids, to their credit, never gave up. They believed we could still achieve a high level.”
The Mustangs reached the heights Thursday at Marion High School, winning their first Wamac Conference tournament title since 2010. Mount Vernon (30-10), ranked No. 9 in Class 3A, swept 4A No. 8 Marion, 25-17, 25-23, in the championship match.
This is the team you figured to see once University of Iowa commit Lauren Schrock transferred from Solon. This is the level of play you assumed the Mustangs would show when they began the season ranked No. 1.
Instead, on Sept. 21, they were 14-8 overall, 1-3 in the Wamac East Division.
“Our coaches drilled into us at practice that we needed to pick it up if we wanted to be great,” Natalie Welch said.
So, were the Mustangs great Thursday?
“Yes,” Welch said. “And I think we can be better.”
Added setter Summer Brand: “We’ve worked a lot on our focus, and we’ve come together as a team. I think we can go all the way if we put it all together.”
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Mount Vernon and Marion (28-10) both pulled a significant upset in the quarterfinals Thursday. The Mustangs knocked off 2A No. 3 Dyersville Beckman, 25-21, 25-16; Marion tripped 4A No. 5 West Delaware, 25-14, 20-25, 15-9.
“I think it was a gift that we started with such a good team,” Willems said. “We needed to be ready to go right away. We had so few unforced errors against Beckman. We played so clean.”
The Mustangs needed three sets to eliminate Clear Creek Amana in the semifinals; Marion outlasted Independence, 30-28, 28-26.
Mount Vernon broke open the first set of the championship match with seven straight points for a 15-4 lead. The second set was nip and tuck the whole way, with neither team leading by more than three points.
Tied at 23-23, the Mustangs closed it out with kills by Welch and Madi Cranston.
“They’ve made some changes in the lineup since the last time we played, and they’re a lot better,” Marion Coach Roxanne Paulsen said. “Their defense covered a lot of our shots.
“But the way we played today, I’ll take it. Other than the first set in that last match, we brought a lot of energy. The first two matches, we were really hitting our spots.”
Wamac volleyball tournament
Solon def. DeWitt Central, 23-25, 25-8, 15-10
South Tama def. Vinton-Shellsburg, 17-25, 25-17, 15-10
Extra Consolation Match
Vinton-Shellsburg def. DeWitt Central, 21-25, 25-13, 15-9
Williamsburg def. Solon, 25-21, 25-22
Maquoketa def. South Tama, 25-21, 25-13
Maquoketa def. Williamsburg, 23-25, 25-13, 15-8
Independence def. Benton Community, 25-15, 15-16
Marion def. West Delaware, 25-14, 20-25, 15-9
Clear Creek Amana def. Center Point-Urbana, 25-10, 25-17
Mount Vernon def. Dyersville Beckman, 25-21, 25-16
Dyersville Beckman def. Benton Community, 25-16, 25-12
West Delaware def. Center Point-Urbana, 25-20, 25-17
Marion def. Independence, 30-28, 28-26
Mount Vernon def. Clear Creek Amana, 25-13, 23-25, 15-10
Mount Vernon def. Marion, 25-17, 25-23
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