By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Sore throat aside, Mt. Vernon coach Bridgett Schmutz couldn’t help but let out a few excited yells during and after Tuesday night’s three-set win at Springfield Catholic.
Her Mountaineers handed Catholic (21-3-2 overall) just its third loss of the season.
“It’s definitely exciting for us, considering our overall record doesn’t quite match theirs right now,” said Mt. Vernon setter Lacy Stokes. “To come in here, it’s a great win. It wouldn’t have been a bad loss, but it feels great to get the win.”
More importantly, the victory also helps Mt. Vernon continue toward a team goal:
Improve upon its fourth-place finish in the Big 8 East from a year ago.
“The only way we can do that, to start, was to beat Catholic tonight,” Schmutz said.
Mt. Vernon outlasted the Irish in three sets (25-21, 22-25, 25-20). After a back-and-forth final set which featured nearly 10 lead changes, the Mountaineers pulled away with the final five points.
The Mountaineers (18-7-2 overall) were coming off a busy weekend in their own tournament, which featured matches against Class 4 schools Camdenton and Republic.
“I think that helps us in these tight games,” Schmutz said.
Schmutz, who estimated she’s battled a cough-cold spell for nearly a month, also lost her voice during that tournament and had to adjust her coaching style.
“I was teasing the girls in the locker room just now and told them, ‘I’m taking partial credit for that win because if I sit over there like a bump on a log, you guys don’t win that match,’” she said. “I think our players, all girls especially, feed off their leaders a little bit.
“I had to learn the hard way that if I get mad and frustrated, it doesn’t go well. I try to be excited and have fun. Because that’s why we’re here: to have fun.”
Said Stokes: “She’s on cough drop No. 247, I think. The best is when we’re in the locker room and she’s trying to hype us up and (her voice) cracks.”
Catholic, which got 11 kills from freshman Grace O’Reilly and eight kills from sophomore Cherie Sabini, rallied from a 15-13 deficit in the second set.
The Irish drew even at 20-all on Sabini’s ace. The Irish then closed out the second-set win with a block point and kill from senior Annalise Hamtil, followed by a kill from junior Emme Ast.
Ast and Rylie Jeffers recorded 14 assists apiece. Senior libero Lauren Zolfaghari had 24 digs.
Before Tuesday, Catholic’s other losses had come against Parkview (Sept. 5) and Strafford (Sept. 28).
The Irish are still on pace to have their best season since 2011, when they finished 24-6-1 overall.
“I’ve enjoyed coaching these girls so far,” said first-year Catholic coach Stephanie Bates, who ended a long coaching stint at Glendale after last season. “They’ve really been little sponges. I just hope they continue to do so, work hard and get even better than they already are.”
Catholic hosts defending Class 3 state champion Logan-Rogersville on Thursday night. Mt. Vernon returns to action next Tuesday at home against rival Aurora.