Their legacy is secure.
Top-ranked Mount Vernon went from sluggish to spectacular in the blink of an eye and captured its second straight state volleyball championship Saturday, defeating No. 3 West Delaware, 17-25, 25-20, 25-11, 25-13, in the Class 3A final at the U.S. Cellular Center.
Class 2A champions last year, the Mustangs won their 56th consecutive match, finished the season at 41-0 and took their place among the state’s all-time best.
“Every game, we said, ‘This is our dream. This is our legacy,’ ” said Mustangs Coach Shirley Ryan. “The girls took charge.”
West Delaware (41-4) had the Mustangs on their heels throughout the first game and the majority of the second. But the Mustangs flipped on a switch of urgency when they were facing a 19-16 deficit in Game 2.
They scored five straight points and nine of the last 10, won the set and established dominance.
“I think we were a little nervous at the beginning,” said all-tournament captain Ali Stark. “We calmed down and improved our passing a lot.”
Mount Vernon went on to win the final two games decisively.
“If we would have taken Game 2, who knows?” said West Delaware Coach Brett Mather, who led the Hawks to their fourth runner-up finish. “Mount Vernon started to shut us down better at the first line of defense.”
And it did so primarily with its stars. Stark (who will play at the University of Illinois next year) had 18 kills. Courtney Kintzel (UNI) added 16, Amanda Platte (Drake) collected 13. Mount Vernon had 18 blocks, West Delaware none.
Platte joined Stark on the all-tournament team. So did West Delaware’s Jenna Hermsen and Allison Pasker, Sioux City Heelan’s Leisa McClintock and Waverly-Shell Rock’s Kinsey Caldwell.
Mackenzie Harbaugh had 13 kills for the Hawks. Pasker added 11.
All four of West Delaware’s losses came at the hands of the mighty Mustangs, who are ranked sixth nationally by prepvolleyball.com.
“They’re just a phenomenal squad,” Mather said.
“They’re one of the best teams I’ve seen or will ever see,” said Hermsen, the Hawks’ setter. “We came out and had fun, but they pulled away.
“We got beat by only one team all year.”
What a team it was.
The past four years netted 3A runner-up finishes in 2007 and 2008, a 2A title last year and a 3A crown Saturday.
“I don’t know,” Stark said. We’re a humble team. We don’t talk about that much. I’ve just been fortunate to play with these awesome girls. It’s not just the talent. They’re some of the nicest girls you’ll ever meet.”
Kintzel said, “I hope we’re remembered as a group of girls that loved the sport of volleyball. That’s why we do what we do.”
Eleven Mustangs will graduate next spring, and there is speculation that the 64-year-old Ryan will depart after 38 seasons as well. She was non-committal after the match Saturday.
“For now, I’m just going to stop and smell the roses,” she said. “I’ll tell you this: I’m exhausted. I’ve had a few meltdowns this fall; my husband can attest to that.”
Ryan has coached the Mustangs to 828 wins and three titles — they also reigned in 1984. She coached two of her granddaughters: Emily Ryan was the setter for the two runner-up teams; Sarah Ryan was the pilot for the last two title teams and collected 52 assists Saturday.
“These kids have been such a dream to coach,” Coach Ryan said. “All of them.”
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