MP undefeated in home tournament
It came down to each team’s last game of the day — Class 4A Mt. Pleasant and Class 1A No. 3 New London, both undefeated through their first three games of the Mt. Pleasant Tournament on Saturday, met each other in what would be the championship game.
In the end, the Panthers’ height was too much for the Tigers to contend with, and Mt. Pleasant took the tournament title.
"They're so tall — they make us look like little munchkins," New London Coach Maureen Heath said. "They've got so many hitters to choose from. We're good defensively, but we just couldn't match their firepower."
Brianne Holtkamp led the Panthers with 25 kills on the day. Taryne Shull had 22 and Mary Wester contributed 18. Lydia Smith had 16 and Kelsi Phipps had 15 kills.
"The biggest thing is that we have quality 6-footers," Mt. Pleasant Coach Jeff Schulz said. "We can spread the ball around, and (opponents) can't key in on anyone. Even if a hitter makes a mistake, the setter goes right back to them. They have a lot of faith in each other."
In the first set between the Henry County teams, it was the Tigers that came out on top.
"In the first game, we had them out of sync," Heath said.
The Tigers scored the first four points of the match. Mt. Pleasant tied the score at eight, but New London took back the lead with help from an ace by Ashley Davey, and the Tigers didn’t looked back on their way to a 25-17 win.
Jorgi Krieger had a couple key kills for New London in the game on her way to 28 on the day.
Emily Parks led the team with 30 kills in the tournament.
"We needed to be more aggressive," Schulz said. "New London is too good to be tentative against."
The teams played to a 5-5 tie in the second set, but kills by Wester and Shull and back-to-back aces by Hannah Becker gave Mt. Pleasant a 9-5 lead.
The Panthers stretched that lead to 14-9 as Ashley Loving took over serving and the hosts went on a five-point run that put them up by 10.
"They warmed up, and went on that serving roll in game two," Heath said. "That took us out of everything."
An ace by Shull ended the game, 25-15.
In game three, Mt. Pleasant looked like it would close the match quickly.
Lydia Smith served the Panthers to a 7-2 lead early, and the Panthers maintained that lead for a while, going up 11-6 before the Tigers roared back.
Josten Boyer put up a big block for New London to cut Mt. Pleasant's lead to just two at 11-9.
Later, Sami Koontz served an ace to put the Tigers within one at 12-11.
From there the teams traded kills — Jorgi Krieger and Emily Parks for New London, Holtkamp and Wester for Mt. Pleasant — until Shull was able to put one down for a Mt. Pleasant win, 15-13.
"You have to give New London a lot of credit," Schulz said. "I didn't think it was that close in the last match, but it was — and they deserved to be in there. They showed why they're ranked No. 3 in the class. We have a lot of respect for them."
And New London isn’t complaining about a match against a talented 4A team.
"We need to play that kind of competition," Heath said. "Usually you don't face teams with that many hitters. But no excuses — I think we could have beaten Mt. Pleasant; they just stepped it up and took it to us.”
New London finished 3-1 on the day.
The Tigers defeated Keokuk by scores of 25-8 and 25-12. They topped Central Lee in three sets — 21-15, 25-9 and 15-11. They swept Burlington Notre Dame in two sets, winning by scores of 25-8 and 25-6.
Sarah Holtkamp had assists 87 for New London.
Morgan Christner had 22 kills and Josten Boyer added 15.
Sami Koontz had a team-high 43 digs. Emily Parks added 34 and Holtkamp had 28. Davey contributed 20.
Davey also served eight aces. Christner had six aces, while Krieger had five.
“We played well enough to win today, but we had a busy week and have played several Saturdays in a row,” Heath said. “I think we’re just ready to get focused on the postseason.”
Mt. Pleasant finished 4-0 at their home tournament.
The Panthers defeated Keokuk in the first game, 25-10 and 25-17. They went to three sets against Central Lee, winning the first, 25-20, before falling by a score of 25-21. They took the tiebreaker, 15-7. They also topped Burlington Notre Dame, 25-16 and 25-14.
“We did well,” Schulz said. “We showed a lot of resiliency when things weren’t going well. I didn’t call a timeout the entire day, so when we were down against Central Lee and New London, the young ladies pulled it out on their own.”
Ashley Loving had 50 assists and Hannah Becker had 41.
Brianne Potts had a team-high 58 digs and Holtkamp added 26.
Loving and Potts served six aces each and Holtkamp had five. Shull served four, while Becker, Phipps and Smith had three aces each.
The Panthers are now 26-4 on the season and remain 6-0 in Southeast Conference play. The Tigers are 33-6 overall and 6-1 in the Southeast Iowa Super Conference South Division.
Mt. Pleasant hosts Ft. Madison in its senior night game on Thursday, and New London plays a triangular against Maharishi and Harmony on Tuesday in Fairfield.
The Tigers open postseason play at home on Tuesday, Oct. 29, against the winner of a match between WACO and Burlington Notre Dame.
Mt. Pleasant hosts its first regional game as well, which will be against Keokuk on Monday, Oct. 28.