Claiming a share of the conference title last year was nice. Capturing a title this year all to themselves is even nicer for the Metea Valley Mustangs.
After Tuesday night's 25-12, 25-17 defeat of visiting Bartlett, the Metea Valley volleyball program closed out a perfect 6-0 run through the Upstate Eight Valley to claim its first non-shared conference volleyball crown.
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"We made it a goal at the beginning of the year to win conference, but we knew it would be tough with Waubonsie and Neuqua," said senior middle hitter Kaylyn Torain, who had 6 kills and 3 blocks Tuesday against the Hawks. "Once we got past both of them, we were like, 'We got this.' "
That they did, but first Metea Valley did have to break from a 15-15 tie in Game 2 to complete the sweep and finish off Bartlett (5-19-1, 1-5). The Hawks tied the game at 14 following a kill by Lexi Cazzato, and it was even again at 15 following a Mustangs hitting error. But Torain and outside hitter Lexie Lobdell made sure the hosts took care of business down the stretch.
Ellie Petersen set up Torain in the middle for a kill and, following an ace by Nina Tuszynski, Torain then added a kill on the right side, a block kill, a tip winner and another slam to the floor of the Hawks side of the net. Before long that 15-15 tie turned into a 24-15 lead for the Mustangs. Bartlett managed two more points before Lobdell closed things out with her match-high eighth kill.
"It was our conference championship so we were really excited and wanted to come out strong," said Lobdell, who had 5 kills in the opening game. "The second game we just lost our focus a little bit, but then we got it back. Last year we shared the title and it was our goal this year to be undefeated."
Petersen ran a quick attack for the Mustangs and finished with 23 assists, while Tuszynski was solid with 4 kills and 3 aces and Autumn Long paced the defense with 5 digs.
Bartlett coach Michele Bickus felt her team at times had flashed some of its stronger passing of late, but lapses against tough Metea serves proved costly, especially late in Game 2.
"We were playing pretty well up until point 15," she said of Game 2. "Then we kind of lost our focus. They had a couple aces and it got away from us."
Even so, Bickus saw some good signs. Katie Hrbacek had 4 kills and 3 digs, and Rachel Hartford had 3 kills and a pair of aces as the visitors battled the conference champs tough in the second game.
"Our serve receive has been off recently, and tonight, except for a bit there late in the match, it was a much better and I'm glad to see that," she said.
Mustangs coach Dave MacDonald is hoping the conference title helps propel his squad into some postseason success when they host a regional in two weeks.
"It's been a nice year so far but our big, big goal is to get a regional," he said. "We just want to hold that trophy. I want it for these girls and they deserve it."