The volleyball was set into the air and nobody on the Muscatine volleyball team made a move for it. Finally, Rylie Moss dove to get a hand on an attackable ball that nobody else played.
Moss’ shot went into the net, and all coach Tim Martin could do was shake his head in frustration. It was just the latest example of the passing and communication problems Muscatine had on offense in the first two sets Tuesday night against Pleasant Valley.
The Muskies rebounded in the third set, but it wasn’t enough, as they fell to the Spartans 25-11, 25-12, 25-21 at home.
“It was like, ‘OK, what are we doing out there? This is not the team we see in practice all the time,” Martin said of the first two sets. “Our passing was a struggle. I think it was nerves in the first game and the second game they came out a little upset at themselves.
“I don’t question the aggressiveness and passion. I just want to see it all the time and have them understand anything can happen.”
The Muskies (2-2, 1-2 MAC) never found their footing in either of the first two sets, and the Spartans front line took advantage of poor passing by Muscatine.
Pleasant Valley rattled off the first four points of the match and never trailed in the opening set. A block by Erica Brohm and IIan Perez-Johnson extended the Spartans’ lead to 9-2. Consecutive kills by Emily Wood and Chloe Kaitlyn Morgan helped extend the lead to 17-9 later in a set Pleasant Valley (6-0, 3-0 MAC) eventually won with ease.
Chloe Cline led the Spartans with eight kills, while Morgan and Perez-Johnson added seven apiece.
“When we are in system we have a lot of options,” Pleasant Valley coach Amber Hall said. “It helps give (setter) Kora (Ruff) a lot of options and keeps the defense guessing on where the ball is going.”
Ruff, a sophomore, recorded her 1,000th career assist in the match for the Spartans, and she finished the night with 29 assists.
It was more of the same in the second set, as the Spartans rattled off the first five points and led by as much as 18-4 later in the set.
“We couldn’t pass the ball or attack,” Martin said. “We couldn’t get a first-ball kill. They played great defense, dug up the ball and would get a kill after a few rallies.”
However, facing a two-set deficit, it was a different story in the third set for Muscatine, which opened with a kill by senior Hannah Reynolds. The 1-0 lead to start the set was Muscatine’s first lead of the night. Not only did the Muskies find their offense, but they also found a serving rhythm, as an ace from Kaylynn Salyars gave them a 10-8 lead later in the set.
“We’ve focused on being aggressive with our serves,” Martin said, “but also understanding when to be aggressive with our serve.”
Salyars finished with team-highs in kills (four) and assists (nine). Moss, who led a strong defensive effort in the third set, led the Muskies with 10 digs.
“Muscatine’s serving was a lot more aggressive in that third set,” Hall said. “We had a harder time getting in system and passing the ball up.”
The Muskies opened up their biggest lead of the night, 17-12, after an ace by Ashlyn McGinnis and a kill by Kaitlyn McGinnis. However, Pleasant Valley ended the match on a 13-4 run, capped off by two straight aces by Perez-Johnson to hand Muscatine a conference loss.
“I think we all agreed it’s not that they didn’t play as hard as they could,” Martin said. “It’s just we couldn’t run a structured offense.
“I thought that was our biggest problem.”