The biggest goal for the Monticello volleyball team has little to do with regular season games this year. Their eyes are on the postseason, and the first state tournament in program history. And in that regard, Tuesday night was just a missed opportunity to elevate their seed position.
But, despite the emphasis on postseason, conference play still remains a priority, and for the Magic there is no bigger conference rival than St. Michael-Albertville, the program that has controlled the volleyball portion of the Mississippi 8 since its inception.
Monticello traveled to STMA Tuesday night, looking to slay one of their biggest opponents. They came close but they couldn’t close, falling in five sets to the Knights.
“A lot of it came down to serving, we missed too many serves,” said Coach Beth Modaff. “We could’ve certainly played better.”
In the first set, the Knights jumped on the Magic, rolling to a 25-16 victory.
But with a couple adjustments, namely shoring up serve receive, Monticello was able to bounce back rather quickly.
The Magic took game two in a nail-biter, 25-23, before following up with another victory by the same margin in game three.
With victories in games two and three, Monticello gave itself two chances to take home a victory. Instead, STMA grabbed control.
The Knights jumped out to an early lead in game four, and while the Magic tried to battle back, it was too little too late. The home team took the fourth set, 25-18.
“We had the momentum,” said Modaff. “We just let a few errors get in the way.”
Once Monticello fell behind, Modaff felt like they may have pressed a little bit, noting they have to work on playing the ball and not the score.
In the fifth and final set, the Knights again controlled play, working toward a 15-10 win to lock up the 3-2 victory over the Magic.
Modaff said that nerves and a little too much pressure on one match may have adversely affected the Magic.
“It’s a huge rival,” she said. “We let that affect us a little bit.”
Monticello did have some very bright moments according to Modaff, led by their senior captain. Jamie Maus finished with a team-high 19 kills, while also tallying four assist blocks and leading the team in good serve receives and successful digs.
“Jamie played quite well,” said Modaff. “She’s probably the one who stood out the most.”
Sara Macek also lifted a big load in the kills department, recording 18 of her own.
Kenzie Stein was a third player to play big up front. Stein recorded 7 assist blocks on the night.
Defensively, the Magic were led by a standout effort from Katie Fisette.
“I thought she played really well,” said Modaff. “She had a lot of nice digs and picked things up when we needed her. She did stand out.”
With Monticello losing the battle of the unbeatens, they fell to 2-1 and into fourth place in the conference. The road ahead doesn’t get any easier, as the Magic still have to square off with a couple of the best teams in the conference, including Buffalo on Thursday night.
“We have a very, very tough conference,” said Modaff. “We know [winning the conference] is a tall order.”
Before Tuesday night, Monticello got tuned up with a third place finish at an Invitational at Heritage Christian Academy last weekend.
With just two sets being played in each match, the Magic went 3-1-2 during pool play. That qualified them for the third place game at the tournament. They lost a tie-break to Robbinsdale Armstrong, who they split with Friday night, by one point. Armstrong would go on to win the championship match.
The Magic, meanwhile, took care of business in the third place game, beating Heritage Christian Academy, 2-0.
“Overall we did some good things,” said Modaff. “We played solidly in that third place game.”
Now, Monticello will turn its eyes back to the end of the season prize.
They know that reaching the state tournament will require continued improvement, but also that it is a goal that remains wide open to them.
“The big goal is the end of the season,” said Modaff. “That is still well within our sights.”
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com