CEDAR RAPIDS — Not so far from flawless. And absolutely fearless.
For the second straight year, Mount Vernon picked off a No. 2-ranked team in the quarterfinal round of the state volleyball tournament. This time, it was more convincing for the eighth-ranked Mustangs, a 25-17, 25-16, 25-21 Class 3A sweep at the U.S. Cellular Center on Tuesday night.
“We had a lot of confidence coming in,” said junior Emma Cochrane. “We were able to play together, and yes, we absolutely thought we could do this.”
Mount Vernon (26-10) was as impressive as anybody that played Tuesday, in any class.
“(The result) was a combination of a couple things,” said Sheldon Coach Eric Maassen. “We didn’t pass as well as we are capable. But Mount Vernon is a great defensive team. So many times, I thought we had a kill, but they dug it up.
“So a little was on us. A lot was the fact that they were a great team tonight.”
The Mustangs return Wednesday morning to watch and to scout the match between No. 3 Carroll Kuemper (26-4) and No. 6 Red Oak (27-6). They’ll play the winner at 2 p.m. Thursday.
“We’ll watch at 10, we’ll go home and put a game plan together, then we’ll practice and put it together,” said Mustangs Coach Maggie Willems.
In terms of rankings, this was a mild upset. But it was no fluke, and it wasn’t unprecedented. The Mustangs beat second-rated Davenport Assumption in the quarterfinals last year.
“We knew people were assuming, ‘Yeah, they’re No. 2. They’re going to be great,’ ” said Mustangs setter Morgan Melchert. “But we had a game plan, and we stuck with it. We knew they had good outside hitters, so we had to put up a good block. And we tried to find good matchups.”
Sheldon (34-5) never put a serious scare into the Mustangs. The Orabs’ only decent opportunity came in Game 3, when they scored two straight points to get within 18-16.
But Mount Vernon answered with a 6-2 run to reach match point at 24-18. After the Orabs scored three in a row, Hannah Whitley whacked the terminating kill to send the Mustangs to the next round.
“We played as a team and focused on being the scrappiest team on the court,” said Whitley, who — as a victim of a broken nose earlier in her career — sported that menacing-looking mask, as well as one of the longest braids of the day. “The scrappier we were, the more frsutrated the other team was going to be.”
Whitley collected 13 kills, Cochrane 10. Melchert passed out 33 assists.
And the Mustangs benefitted from Sheldon’s erratic hitting — the Orabs had 24 attacking errors, along with 28 kills.
Jessica Van Beek had 12 kills for the Orabs.