ANAMOSA - The atmosphere was raucous inside the Anamosa High School gym Tuesday, Sept. 10, and no, it’s not basketball or wrestling season.
The packed house was there to watch the Raiders battle rival Monticello in a volleyball match.
Over much of the past quarter century, volleyball has usually taken a backseat when it comes to vocal community support in Anamosa.
The Raiders are defending River Valley Conference North division champions and return a talented team this fall as well, and the packed crowd, which included a huge student section, was into each and every point as Anamosa posted a thrilling 25-15, 19-25, 25-14, 27-25 victory.
“We gave that great crowd plenty to cheer about, that’s for sure,” said Raider volleyball coach Caitlin McVay, as her team tallied another league triumph with the four-set win over a solid Panther team.
“All day long leading up to the game the kids were asking and talking about the game. The gym was so exciting and I think the girls really fed off all of that energy. It was a great night.”
Anamosa (9-4, 2-1) had a game plan of keeping Monticello’s star player Jordan Kuper in check the best they could, too.
“We wanted to go sideline to sideline with our hitting to keep Kuper moving,” McVay said. “She’s a very talented player and we knew we were going to have to work things around her, and for the most part we did a pretty good job of that.”
Maggie McQuillen was able to find some holes in that Panther defense coming through with a team-best 12 kills on 29 attacks while she also added 11 digs.
“Maggie had a big night and really stepped up when we needed her to,” McVay said. “Actually, we did a pretty good job of spreading the offense around even with Maggie having 12 kills. Seven different girls had kills in the match for us.”
Jaiden Neuhaus added nine more while Olivia Nebergall chipped in with eight. Abby Fairbanks added seven more kills for the Raider offense while Kylie Chapman set 25 assists while Gabby Gadient added 13 more.
Anamosa serving was also sensational, as the team drilled 98-percent of them over the net with 11 going for aces. Chapman was 21-of-22 with three aces while Gadient had a huge night connecting for six aces going 18-of-19 at the service line.
The Raider defense also proved to be strong as the team came through with nine blocks led by three from McQuillen. Grace Steffensmeier and Delaney Frater tallied two more each.
“We had more blocks in that match than any so far this year,” McVay said. “It seemed like everyone was getting touches on the ball and that really helped us slow Monticello’s offense down.”
Anamosa looked to continue the momentum into a huge match at Camanche Thursday, Sept. 12, but instead were handed a tough 12-25, 22-25, 26-28 defeat against the host Indians.
“This was a match we could have and should have won,” McVay said. “This wasn’t last year’s state-ranked Camanche team we were playing, but we looked like a team who just started playing volleyball, especially early in the match, and that proved to be the difference. We just couldn’t seem to get things going against a team we should have beaten in straight sets, not lose to in straight sets.”
After dropping the lopsided first set, the Raiders rallied in the second taking a 14-7 lead, but could not close out the Indians.
“I don’t know if it was playing in the same gym where our season ended last year or what it was, but we were just out of sync,” McVay said. “We only had 80 attacks offensively and made 20 errors. That’s a number that tough to overcome.”
Nebergall’s seven kills led the visitors while McQuillen added five more. Chapman (11) and Gadient (10) combined to set 21 assists while Lexi Bright led the back row with nine digs.
“Even in the third set we had three different chances to end the set and couldn’t do it,” McVay said. “Camanche came into this match with just two wins this year and we were their first conference win. This will make defending our division title a little tougher, but hopefully we can bounce back and get things going again quickly.”