Prep Volleyball

Mount Vernon returns to state volleyball semifinals

Balanced attack helps topple Union Community

CEDAR RAPIDS — Mount Vernon has plenty of weapons at its disposal.

When they’re firing on all cylinders, the Mustangs are tough to defend.

Five players tallied at least seven kills in third-ranked Mount Vernon’s balanced attack that eliminated No. 7 Union Community, 25-13, 25-14, 23-25, 25-15, in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A state volleyball tournament Tuesday at Alliant Energy PowerHouse. The Mustangs eliminated the Knights for the second straight year and continue their title defense against No. 2 Clarion CGD in Wednesday’s semifinals at 3 p.m.

Mount Vernon Coach Maggie Willems doesn’t take the versatility for granted.

“That is the gift of this team,” Willems said. “You cannot just pick a single hitter to commit to. “I think that’s the hard thing about defending us. Our setter is great at distributing the ball evenly and you just don’t know who you are going to have to defend.”

Mount Vernon (31-6) is obviously powered by outside hitter Lauren Schrock. The University of Iowa recruit provided her normal contribution with a team-high 17 kills. Camryn Ellyson added 12, while Natalie Welch had nine. Sara Rhomberg and Madi Cranston finished with eight and seven, respectively.

“Everybody on our team can hit, even our back row players and setter,” Schrock said. “There isn’t one person I wouldn’t trust getting a kill. It’s really good to have all that in your tool box.”

Another future Hawkeye, setter Sydney Dennis had 45 assists. Rhomberg had a team-high three aces and was efficient with her attacks, converting on a .353 clip. Rhomberg is an asset as a second middle hitter.

“She is outstanding,” Willems said. “It is a mistake to overlook her.”

The Mustangs established the tone early, building an 8-3 lead and going on a 7-2 run for a 15-7 advantage. They also scored nine of the final 12 points to close the opening set.

The second set was a seesaw affair, including eight ties through the 10-10 mark. Mount Vernon pulled away with an 11-2 run, receiving three kills from Schrock, two from Rhomberg and one from Welch with a Dennis ace.

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“We came out battling right away,” Schrock said. “It is really important, especially in volleyball to start really strong. I think we did that every set.”

Union (31-10) was hard to shake, battling back in the third set. The Knights withstood a burst at the start and chipped away, taking its first lead a 22-21. Aubrey Gates and Belle Weber heated up for Union with kills and Laura Rempe provided a key point in the rally.

The Knights capitalized on a couple late miscues and Gates had one of her 11 kills to set up set point. Weber paced Union with 12 kills. Senior Allie Driscol had 23 assists, helping the Knights force a fourth.

“Union is all about fighting,” said Driscol, noting they faced a similar situation a year ago. “We really do talk in practice about fighting and just because we’re behind it doesn’t matter. The game is not over until someone gets 25.”

Mount Vernon opened the fourth set with a 6-2 edge. The Mustangs cemented it with a seven-point run to double Union up at 20-10. They closed it with three straight points, advancing and keeping their title defense intact.

“It’s great,” Rhomberg said about returning to the semifinals. “I’m just really grateful to be here and with this team.”

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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