116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Midway through the second week of the volleyball season, and one thing already has become clear:
The Mississippi Valley Conference has depth. Quality depth.
Proof came last Thursday, when the MVC trio of Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Cedar Rapids Prairie and Iowa City West won six of nine matches against the Mississippi Athletic Conference’s Pleasant Valley, North Scott and Bettendorf.
“It’s been a long time since that happened,” Kennedy Coach Robin Fonck said. “The MVC is definitely making a turn for the better.”
Pleasant Valley was No. 2 in the preseason Class 5A rankings; North Scott was No. 1 in 4A.
Class 5A eighth-rated Kennedy and No. 15 Prairie both defeated North Scott; No. 11 West knocked off PV.
It was a glaring turnaround for West, which was swept at Kennedy on opening night. And the Trojans kept it rolling Tuesday, taking down defending 4A state champion Cedar Rapids Xavier in a five-setter.
“That was thrilling,” West Coach Keeley Arnold said. “The skill has always been there, but the progress we have made has all been mental.”
After the Kennedy loss, West switched from a 5-1 attack to a 6-2, with Emma Dunlap and Emma Stammeyer sharing duties at setter.
“We’re more dynamic when we run the 6-2,” Arnold said. “The two setters are different people, different setters. They connect in different ways with our hitters.”
Class 5A top-ranked Iowa City Liberty (6-1, 2-0) and Cedar Falls (5-1, 2-0), as expected, have risen to the top of the Mississippi Division, which also features Western Dubuque (2-1, 1-1) and Prairie (3-2, 1-1).
In the Valley Division, it’s Kennedy (4-1, 2-0) and Dubuque Hempstead (6-0, 2-0) on top, with West (3-2, 1-1) and Xavier (1-1, 1-1) in pursuit.
“We’re thrilled,” Fonck said. “We have a really solid group of athletes, and it’s a very cohesive team. They’re all insanely competitive and they really want to win, and win now.”
Case in point: Ally Harris, who moved from outside hitter last year to libero.
“She really honed her defensive skills since last year, she said she wanted to be the libero and she won the job,” Fonck said.
Key matches next Tuesday include Kennedy at Xavier and Western Dubuque at Prairie.
Shirley Ryan Invitational: A sweet 16, indeed
The level of talent at Saturday’s Shirley Ryan Invitational is eye-opening.
Twelve of the 16 teams are ranked, led by Class 2A top-ranked Dike-New Hartford. The Wolverines are in a crowded pool that also includes 4A No. 2 Waverly-Shell Rock and 3A No. 6 Red Oak.
Other top-10 teams are Western Dubuque (4A), Des Moines Christian (3A), Davenport Assumption (3A), Mount Vernon (3A) and Grundy Center (2A).
Pool play begins at 8:30 a.m. at three facilities in Mount Vernon. The top two teams from each pool advance into the championship bracket, sometime around 1:30 p.m. at Mount Vernon High School.