Prep volleyball: Mohawks say goodbye to senior at home quadrangular

Sep. 19—MORAVIA — Ryan Vanbogaert was trying hard not to cry on Monday night.

The Moravia head volleyball coach shared an emotional hug with each Mohawk senior throughout the third and final match of Moravia's home quadrangular. Morgan Hawk, Alexa Bedford, Rachel Kok, Keelie Anderson, Destiny Drew, Finley Spencer and Piper Stufflebeem each got a moment to exit the floor receiving a hug from their coaches and teammates during a 21-8, 21-6 win over Bluegrass Conference rival Moulton-Udell.

"I've watched this group grow from seventh graders to what they are now," Vanbogaert said. "I'm really going to miss this group. They care for each other. There's no attitudes. There's no 'me-ball.' There's no feeling that anyone is better than the rest of the team. They've built the standard of what it means to be a leader here. From where they were as eighth graders in terms of their development as volleyball players and human beings has been outstanding.

"This was emotional for me. I'm not going to lie, but we have a lot of volleyball left in front of us."

Moravia won two of three matches on Monday, bookending the quadrangular by sweeping Pekin 22-20 and 21-15 in the first match of the night. The Panthers nearly rallied from six set points down to steal the opening game against the Mohawks a wide serve and overpass by Pekin allowed Moravia to get back on the winning track.

Moravia started all three matches opening large leads, jumping out to a 15-8 lead in the second match of the night against Cardinal. The Comets, after opening the night with a 21-4, 21-3 win over Moulton-Udell, responded in a big way scoring 34 of the final 48 points in the match to stun the Mohawks with a 21-16, 21-13 win.

"We weren't playing as a unit at the beginning of that match. When we play as individuals, we don't play quite as well," Cardinal head volleyball coach Candice Major said. "The girls know how to make a comeback. It's nothing new for us. I'm extremely proud that we pulled through and finished it."

Leading the charge to a 2-0 start to the night for Cardinal was junior Emarie Finch. After managing just one kill during the first 23 points of the match against Moravia, Finch heated up at the net finishing with 14 kills including eight winners scored during the 13-1 run the Comets finished the opening set on.

"She was on it. We haven't seen that from Emarie since the preseason," Major said. "I told her after the match that she's woken up again. We want to keep her on that high. She's an excellent middle (hitter) for us. I definitely saw that confidence from her. When that excitement can carry on throughout the entire team, we start to play at a higher level."

Cardinal set their sights on a perfect night, facing Pekin in the final match of the quadrangular for both teams. The Panthers bounced back from the earlier loss to Moravia, sweeping Moulton-Udell 21-12 and 21-13.

"I was really nervous with how we were going to come out, but we really started out strong against Moulton-Udell," Pekin head volleyball coach Jordan Mohs said. "We were able to get some girls in to get some more experience."

Beating Moulton-Udell was one thing. Beating Cardinal meant something more to the Panthers.

"I didn't really realize before I came to Pekin just how important this rivalry is to both schools," Mohs said. "That really helps our girls. Every time we play them, something about the rivalry makes them want to try their best."

As a result, Pekin battled Cardinal in the best set of the night edging the Comets 24-22 in the opening game. That win proved to be even bigger as the Comets responded in the second game, pulling away late to earn a 21-12 victory that forced the final match into a third and decisive final set.

"We played pretty strong and fought towards the end," Mohs said. "I've said multiple times this season that's one of our strengths."

Myah Bainbridge helped Pekin put away their second win of the night, clinching the three-set win over Cardinal with two kills and two blocks. Perhaps the biggest point of the match came with Pekin up 2-1 as a serve by Bainbridge that appeared to be headed out tipped off Cardinal libero Brinlee Ostrander extending an opening 4-1 run in the final set for the Panthers.

"When something like that happens, I think that brings our energy level up," Bainbridge said. "It makes us want to keep pushing."

Pekin (4-12) heads to Highland for pool-play action in the Southeast Iowa Superconference tournament on Thursday joining the Huskies, Mediapolis and West Burlington with the top-two teams advancing to play in the eight-team SEISC tournament quarterfinals on Saturday. Thursday night's volleyball slate also includes Cardinal (4-10) hosting PCM, Moravia (9-4) traveling to Seymour for a key Bluegrass Conference battle while Moulton-Udell (0-8) travels to Bussey to face Twin Cedars.

"We've been working on a new offense and the girls are brand new to this," M-U head volleyball coach Kristy Demry said. "We've got a couple of girls that have never even played volleyball before. We've got a lot of growing to do, but I feel we are going to make some growth.

"We're still working on serving and passing being primaries for us. If we can get that accomplished, I think we'll be able to put some better offense and defense together. We're going to keep plugging away in the gym. The girls are buying into it and doing everything I'm asking them. There are a couple spark plugs on the team that don't like to give up on anything."

— Scott Jackson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.