ALBIA – It’s safe to say the Class of 2020 has left its mark on the Albia volleyball program.
One mark that Abbey Griffin, Alex Beard, Ellie Spurgin and Abbie Martin did not want to leave on Thursday night was losing on Senior Night.
Despite a valiant effort from visiting Mount Pleasant, which came within three points of building a two-set lead, the Lady Dees rallied for a hard-fought four-set win. Griffin’s 17th kill secured a 21-25, 25-22, 25-15, 25-22 win as Albia finished the match on a 9-0 run.
“There was a little extra pressure coming into the night. Everyone had a few jitters because it was Senior Night, but I think we really pulled through as a team,” Griffin said. “Everyone really came together. We had a whole lot of heart by the end of the match.”
Dubbed ‘the final four,’ Griffin, Beard, Spurgin and Martin have re-written the Albia record books together over four years of high school volleyball and several more years playing together over most of the past decade. Combined, the senior teammates have set program records for digs in a match, digs and a season (Martin), aces served in a match, best single-season serve percentage (Spurgin), assists in a match (Beard), kills per season, attack attempts and kill efficiency in a single season (Griffin).
“We’ve been playing together since third grade. We’ve played AAU volleyball. We’ve played youth volleyball with (current Albia High School head coach) Missy (Cox-Dustin),” Beard said. “We’ve been playing together forever and we just have fun doing it. If we set records along the way, do well and win matches, that’s a bonus.”
The fun of Senior Night turned into serious business as Mount Pleasant, now 5-21 on the season, scored the first three points of the match and led most of the opening set. Three unforced errors by the Lady Dees, along with kills from Avery Sutter and Maggie Cristoforo, helped the Panthers jump out to a 7-1 lead.
“I’m not sure I’ve seen our girls play that bad as an entire group in the three years I’ve been head coach,” Cox-Dustin said. “It didn’t seem like we could get our passing done. We couldn’t get our sets done. We couldn’t get the ball off the net. We missed several serves and couldn’t get several hits in. That seemed to flow through into the second game.”
Albia’s first lead was the only lead the Lady Dees could muster in the first set after an ace serve by Griffin snapped an 18-18 tie. Mount Pleasant responded with six straight points and clinched the opening set on a kill by Lexie Magnani, the third set point for the Panthers.
“When we played Mount Pleasant in Ottumwa earlier this season, they were not quite as developed,” Beard said, referencing a two-set sweep by the Lady Dees over the Panthers on the way to a runner-up finish at the Ottumwa Invitational. “They’ve gotten so much better since that tournament. It’s bad on our part to not come out ready to play, but Mount Pleasant has improved so much. Their blocking has become so good. Their libero is amazing. They were ready to make us pay for starting out as slowly as we did.”
Mount Pleasant was on the verge of a commanding two-set lead, leading 22-19 in the second set, before Albia called its final timeout of the set. After a hit that didn’t quite cross the net by the Panthers, back-to-back ace serves by Spurgin tied the score at 22 before Griffin followed up an encouraging talk in the huddle during the timeout with a pair of kills that clinched the set and evened the match.
“I like to do everything I can to make sure the team is playing together,” Griffin said. “I like to use everything I say and all my actions to try and bring everybody else. We’re at our best when out there having fun together. In the beginning, we kind of looked at each other watching the ball and not playing the ball. I was just trying to get everyone excited and get us back to playing our game.”
Albia (22-4) rolled through the third set, winning 25-15 after back-to-back kills by Spurgin clinched a 2-1 lead in the match for the Lady Dees. Mount Pleasant refused to go quietly, however, scoring 10 of the first 12 points in the fourth set and building a 22-16 lead with sights set on forcing a fifth and decisive game at Albia. Griffin closed the show, scoring on four kills to help clinch the match and setting the program record for kills per season for the third time in four years.
“We’re the first group that’s gone through this entire program together since third grade. We’re just a group of great players who can all count on each other,” Griffin said. “I’m proud of the records all my teammates have set. I sure hope they’re proud of me.”
Albia will head to Davis County’s six-team round-robin tournament on Saturday with WACO, New London, Cardinal and Centerville joining the Lady Dees and Mustangs. Action at the Mulcher Community Center in Bloomfield gets underway at 8:30 a.m.