There have been a few days that I’ve let pass since what happened on Friday. That doesn’t take any of the sting away.
Really it leaves me asking more questions than what answers I saw.
The first, and perhaps most telling aspect of what happened lies within what didn’t happen.
Kuemper Catholic, for as long as they have been led by head coach, Keith Stickrod, have been one of the best-hitting and -killing teams in their class.
In the first two rounds of the State tournament the Knights were killing the ball at almost unheard of numbers. In the first round the Knights were able to kill the ball 65 times in a four-set match. The next round, a win over Red Oak Kuemper Catholic upped their killing ability with 74 kills in the five set thriller.
Kuemper Catholic finished the season with the fifth-most kills of any team in the State this season. Only Cedar Falls, the champion of class 5A, Osage (a class 2A semifinals), Union (class 3A semifinalist) and Red Oak (class 3A semifinalist) had more kills. Overall Kuemper finished the season with the 12th-most kills per set, averaging 11.62 per set this season.
However that all changed on Friday afternoon. Kuemper finished the first set with just six kills. They added eight in the second set, and nine in the third set. Overall they finished with 23 total kills.
To put that into perspective on how unusual that is for Kuemper, in the fourth set 30-28 quarterfinal win over Unity Christian, the Kuemper Knights had 21 kills in that set alone.
Mount Vernon didn’t stop the Knights’ attack with a bunch of blocks (the Mustangs finished with just four blocks), but their uncanny ability to low down Kuemper to just 23 kills kept the Knights off balance, and that is part of the reason why what happened, happened.
There is another, thing, that has been a little unexplored in the championship match. Sometimes a team just seems destined to greatness.
Mount Vernon’s coach Maggie Willems was able to win her 250th career match on Wednesday during the quarterfinals. Of course, the Mustangs would get wins 251 and 252 throughout the rest of the weekend. Those are likely emotional wins. An article from the Mount Vernon High School school paper, “The Mustang Moon” reveals that Willems has been battling cancer since last winter.
Sometimes adversity comes from the opponents that teams play on the field. Other times adversity comes from reasons outside of sports. Sometimes not even the best teams can stop forces outside of sports.
Mount Vernon worked their way to a class 3A semifinalist appearance last season without coach Willems. This year they might have played with a little more having their coach on the sidelines.