Although the Muscatine volleyball team’s losing streak hit three on Tuesday evening, the Muskies' morale hasn't taken a hit.
In fact, Muscatine feels like a better team for it.
All three have come against highly-ranked teams, the latest defeat coming at the hands of the Davenport Assumption Lady Knights at Muscatine High School.
The Muskies grew more competitive as the match went along, but ultimately were swept by the Class 3A fourth-ranked Lady Knights, 25-16, 25-20, 27-25, in Mississippi Athletic Conference play.
"(Tonight) we played better than we did last week," Muscatine head coach Kara Russell said. "Our confidence and consistency was improved. But again, we need to work on keeping the intensity all game. I felt like it was there at the end, but we needed a serve with that."
The sides went back and forth in the decisive third set, with the score either tied or a slight Muscatine advantage for most of it.
The Lady Knights looked as out of sorts as they would all night early in the third, as the Muskies forced an Assumption timeout leading 9-5 after a kill by sophomore Brylee Seaman.
But Assumption would get a side out following a tap by Ava Schubert that found space on the floor, handing the ball to Lily VanSeveren, who didn’t surrender serve until the Lady Knights led 12-10. VanSeveren had two of her three aces during that stretch.
Muscatine would later tie it at 14 on an Ashlyn McGinnis assist to Annie Zillig.
Zilig, a sophomore, had three kills that all came in the third set, and every one tied the score.
The first knotted it at four apiece, the second at 14 and the last made it 19-all. She also recorded a pair of digs.
"Our underclassmen are a huge part of our team," said senior Bree Seaman. "This match shows that our team has a lot of talent."
McGinnis, the Muskies’ senior setter, finished with 19 assists and five digs.
Bree Seaman added two of her three kills for the match late in the third in an effort to the Muskies alive. Her final kill tied it at 25, but prove to be the last point scored by Muscatine. The senior also added nine digs and two assists.
In the final set, the score was tied 14 times, not counting the 0-0 start. But Muscatine couldn't stay alive after a return sailed out of bounds for the final point.
Muscatine scored the first three points of the second set, a span capped off by a McGinnis ace.
Sophomore Hannah Jansen and Brylee Seaman sparked Muscatine in the second set as each had four kills during a middle frame that was tied as late as 17-17, but like the final set, Assumption had answers for whatever Muscatine could muster.
Brylee Seaman ended with a Muscatine best seven kills, as she and senior Meadow Freers each had two blocks as well. Freers also added three kills and a dig. Jansen finished with six kills and five digs and a block.
Senior Carly Rolf dished out 42 assists for the Lady Knights, 12 of which were converted into Schubert kills. Schubert was especially counted on the late, as half of her kills came in the third set.
Entering Tuesday, Muscatine dropped matches against 3A eighth-ranked West Liberty and 5A No. 3 Pleasant Valley.
"We're better for it," said Bree Seaman. "We work together more. We're talking more, I think it's the matter of putting it together to get some wins ... All of our hitters are comfortable with Ashlyn now and we're a super tight team, so that helps a lot."
Muscatine (7-4, 1-3 MAC) made serious threats to take either of the last two sets after Assumption ran away with the first by building a double-digit lead out of the gate. A Muskie kill error made it 15-5 in favor of Assumption (12-3, 4-0 MAC) as the Lady Knights cruised to the first set victory.
Muscatine is on the road for its next two MAC contests. Next Tuesday, the Muskies are at Davenport Central, then at Bettendorf on Tuesday, Sept. 28.