Though the sets grew increasingly competitive Thursday evening between Muscatine and Davenport West in the Class 5A Region 8 semifinals, the Muskies came away with a straight-set win to advance in the postseason.
Up next, the Muskies will go against Pleasant Valley (19-1) in the regional final on Oct. 27.
Muscatine’s serve gave West fits throughout the night, as the Muskies recorded eight aces en route to a 25-6, 25-13, 25-15 win at MHS. Senior Kaylynn Salyars had four of those aces.
“This game really boosted our confidence heading into another match with PV,” senior Madi Petersen said. “I think we’ll go in ready, knowing what to expect.”
Salyars was all over the place, going for 16 assists, eight kills and two digs in addition to the damage done serving.
That was the case across the Muskie roster, too, as eight players recorded kills and four had at least one assist, including Salyars’ efforts in both categories.
“Every girl at each position does it differently,” Russell said. “Each part of what they do is important and sometimes we need a different look to be able to mix it up.”
West did a nice job of bouncing back after the first set was all Muskies. By the time the Falcons scored their third point on a block of a Muskie kill attempt, Muscatine (14-12) was already at 16.
In the final set, the Falcons (0-18) rallied to get within one at 7-6 after a Muskie block attempt landed out of bounds. But the Muskies would get back-to-back kills from senior Olivia Harmon and Salyars, followed by one of Salyars’ aces, to put some distance between the teams.
Harmon, the Muskies’ season leader in kills with 125 entering the night, had three.
As West faced elimination later in the third, the MHS lead would shrink to three at 13-10, but Muscatine got a kill from Petersen to go up four and proceeded to score the next seven points of the set.
Petersen finished with a half dozen kills, and junior Meadow Freers and senior Kaitlyn McGinnis added five apiece.
With Muscatine up 24-15, a West return sailed out of bounds to end it.
The Falcons’ two leads of the night came in the second set, when West scored the opening point of the set and then took a 6-5 lead. That set also saw ties at three, five and 10, but the Muskies closed out the set on a 15-3 run to take the first two frames.
Emma Peters led West in kills with four while also adding a block. Sarah Bernick and Molly Daily shared the team-lead in digs with 11.
For the Muskie seniors, Thursday night was the last time they’ll play on the MHS floor, which made the playoff win extra special.
“I thought about (it being the last time on our home court) before the game,” Salyars said, “so I laid everything out there as much as I could.”
“It was a little bittersweet, I guess,” said Harmon. “I enjoyed all my teammates and made the most of it.”
As for what lies ahead, MHS played PV back on Sept. 8, losing in straight sets.
“It felt good (tonight),” said Russell. “I think the girls are just really ready to go against PV and prepare for that. We’re excited that we’re moving on and to get that chance.”
“This game really boosted our confidence heading into another match with PV. I think we’ll go in ready, knowing what to expect.”
— Muscatine senior Madi Petersen
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