ANAMOSA - The atmosphere was electric inside as the Anamosa High School gym Wednesday, Oct. 23, as the Raider volleyball team hosted rival Monticello in what would be one of the most thrilling, and eventually heartbreaking matches the Anamosa program has seen in years.

      With fans packing both sides of the gym and both school’s students showing up in full force as well, the Raiders dropped a wild and crazy class 3A regional quarter-final match that witnessed huge swings of momentum and emotion back and forth throughout the night in what ended as a 20-25, 27-25, 25-21, 22-25, 13-15 defeat.

      “I told the girls in the locker room after the match that this would have been a little easier to take if we hadn’t played so well,” said Anamosa volleyball coach Caitlin McVay, as her team seemed ready to close out the Panthers in the fifth and final set leading 11-7 before Monticello made a miraculous run closing the match going on an 8-2 spurt to win. 

      “Everyone played so well and so hard, that just made walking away from a match like this that much harder for all of us. We played well enough to win, but down the stretch when the game was on the line, Monticello made the big plays and we just have to hand it to them. They did it.”

      Anamosa trailed 7-5 early in the fifth set but back-to-back Maggie McQuillen kills pulled the hosts even with the Panthers. After a Gabby Gadient service ace and another McQuillen kill, the Raiders led 9-7, forcing Monticello head coach Stacie Breitbach to call a timeout.

      Anamosa wasn’t done yet either.

      McQuillen and Delaney Frater combined for a block kill and a Monticello hitting error pushed the Raider advantage to 11-7 before the Panthers made their run to get back into the match.

      The visitors scored four straight points to tie the score at 11-1 before McQuillen answered for the hosts with the last of her team-high 22 kills on 50 attacks, putting Anamosa back up, 12-11.

      It would be the last lead the Raider team would have.

      After Anamosa service error and hitting errors, Monticello had the lead back forcing McVay to call a timeout.

      “I didn’t feel the girls were too nervous when the match started,” she said. “Maybe before the match some of them were nervous being a regional match at home and playing Monticello and all. But down the stretch I think we may have played a little tight and tried to do a little too much, but our girls have absolutely nothing to hang their heads about. This was a great match between two very good teams.”

      Trailing 14-12 Anamosa scored a point thanks to a Monticello error before the match came to an end with a Raider hitting error.

      “I think Maggie may have said it best after the match,” McVay said. “She said ‘we may not have won, but we sure didn’t lose.’ I think that sums everything up perfectly. This was high level volleyball in front of a huge crowd, and the girls really fed off all the energy in the gym.”

      Things got off to a great start for the hosts in the opening set as Anamosa raced to a 15-7 lead and looked well on their way to setting the tone for the night before a furious comeback by the Panthers, which saw the visitors go on an huge 18-5 run to close with a surprising 25-20 triumph.

      “That was one we let get away,” McVay said. “Monticello’s Jordan Kuper went on a big serving run towards the end of that set and we just couldn’t put any of them in play.”

      Kuper drilled aces on three of four points, and gave the Panthers a lead they would not lose.

      “In the end I think that was what the difference in the match was,” Gadient said. “We’ve got such a strong and balanced team and we played so well, but Monticello had Jordan Kuper. She made some huge plays for them, early in the match and late, and we just struggled to slow her down all night long.”

      The hosts bounced back in the second set coming back from a late deficit to pull out the thrilling two-point triumph.,

      With Anamosa trailing 24-23, McQuillen delivered an enormous kill shot that tied the score at 24-24. After an Abby Fairbanks aces, the hosts led before a Panther kill once again knotted things up.

      The Raiders would have the final say in this set however, as McQuillen delivered another huge kill before the hosts closed out the set blocking a Monticello shot straight down for the final set-winning point.

      “The atmosphere and everything about the night was so much fun, I just wish the match could have ended differently,” McQuillen said. “Our student section and home crowd was awesome all night long. They kept us going and kept us pumped up even when we might have felt a little tired. I just wanted to give them the win and it hurts not being able to get that done.”

      The third set saw both teams go back-and-forth before McQuillen, Jaiden Neuhaus and Frater keyed a clutch late run erasing what was a 19-18 Panther lead into the 25-21 Raider triumph.

      Anamosa had hoped to close out the match in the fourth set, but trailing throughout much of it the hosts were able to knot the score at 20-20 with a Fairbanks kill, but the Panthers ended the set with a 5-2 run to force a fifth and final set.

      “I’ve never seen an atmosphere like that in our gym for a volleyball match,” Fairbanks said. “That really helped us raise our game to another level, but walking off the floor with the loss was very hard and tough to take.

      “Volleyball has been my life, my passion for so long and I really wanted to get that win and keep our season going. One thing I do know though, I will never forget that night as long as I live.”

      Fairbanks added seven kills and was 14-of-15 serving with two aces while Olivia Nebergall also played a huge role for the Raiders slamming down 11 kills on 27 attacks.

      Gadient (26) and Kylie Chapman (25) combined to set 51 assists while Gadient added four of the team’s 10 total service aces in the match.

      McQuillen and Grace Lubben were busy in the back row coming up with 12 and 11 digs, respectively.

      “The girls and I would like to thank the community for coming out and supporting us in that match against Monticello Wednesday night and for what they’ve done for us all year long really, “McVay said. “Our student section was amazing, too. The girls have fed off that energy and sure did again against Monticello. It was an amazing night.”

      Anamosa wraps the 2019 volleyball campaign with a 16-13 overall record.

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