MENDOTA — The Mendota volleyball team made the Big Northern Conference West Division take notice.
Now, the Spikers have to deal with the added attention.
Thursday against Winnebago, MHS did just fine.
After Mendota went unbeaten the first time through the conference, the now-hunted Spikers started their second time through the BNC West with a 25-21, 25-20 victory Thursday over Winnebago.
“We’ve been working really, really hard because we now know that we’re a pretty big target in the conference,” senior libero Elivia Ambler said. “Because we’re 7-0, we know that there’s a lot of pressure on us, but it’s also really exciting.”
Thursday’s victory improved MHS (16-6-1) to 7-0 in the BNC West and kept it a game ahead of second-place Oregon (6-1), who the Spikers play next Thursday in Mendota after traveling to Rock Falls on Tuesday.
“We have a big target on our back and it’s going to be tough,” MHS coach John Holzman said. “I keep telling the girls, ‘Ladies, we have that target and it keeps getting bigger and bigger, but we’ve got to rise to the occasion.’ We’ve got to play our A-Game the rest of the way.”
Just like it’s been all season, nothing came easy Thursday for Mendota, which was forced to make its own breaks.
After Winnebago rallied to tie the first set at 18, MHS senior outside hitter JoEllyn Parks put down a thunderous kill to give the lead back to the Spikers, and a four-hit error by Winnebago increased the lead to 20-18 and forced the Lady Indians to call a timeout.
Winnebago responded with its own kill out of the stoppage to make it 21-20, but MHS made plays down the stretch as another kill by Parks, a block from Halie Donahue and a kill from Kaitlyn Horn helped Mendota take a 23-21 lead before two Winnebago errors gave the Spikers the first set.
“We are good most of the time at coming back,” Holzman said. “We’ve been down in other games and have pulled it out. We have a good group of girls who are competitors and don’t want to just give it up.”
After a see-saw first game, the back and forth continued into the second set as MHS led but could never pull away.
With the Spikers up 18-14, Winnebago countered with a 3-0 rally to pull to 18-17, which caused Holzman to call a timeout.
However, MHS regrouped as it won back the serve on a Lady Indian error, and down the stretch a kill from Abby Bromenschenkel and back-to-back kills from Parks helped Mendota take a 23-18 lead.
Winnebago netted back-to-back points to pull to 23-20, but a Lady Indian lift and an MHS block sealed the match.
“Usually, we pull through on the first set and then we’ll let up, but this time we kept it going,” Ambler said. “We’ve had a lot of close games lately, so that’s helped us.”
MHS was led by 10 kills from Parks, while Ambler had nine digs. Brooke Carroll dished out 19 assists and shared a team-high six points with Amy Devitt.
Note: Mendota swept the night as the sophomore squad beat Winnebago 25-9, 12-25, 25-16.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.