MARENGO - The players and the record are not the same, but Mount Vernon continues to move through regional play.
A program that has won back-to-back state volleyball championships prevented Gladbrook-Reinbeck from advancing as the Mustangs claimed a 25-11, 25-16, 25-20 victory in Friday's Class 2A Region 5 semifinals.
Mount Vernon put up a big block at the net and had one of the state's top Liberos patrolling the back row to stymie the Rebel attack at the net. Gladbrook-Reinbeck (20-12) finished with more attack errors than kills.
"Not being able to get kills hurt," said G-R head coach Marcia Koester. "They blocked us well and we didn't move the ball around enough to get around the block."
The Mustangs came into the year having won 56 straight matches and won the 2A state title in 2009 and 3A crown in 2010, but graduated everyone from last year's champion. Mount Vernon, with a sub-.500 record of 17-19, takes a run of four consecutive state tournament appearances into Tuesday's regional final against No. 4-ranked Grundy Center (40-1) in Vinton.
Quick starts to the first two sets led the Mustangs out to a 2-0 advantage. The Rebels' best play of the night came in set three, but they never could overcome Mount Vernon's trio of hitters Emma Pisarik, Hannah Whitley and Jenah Vandersall, nor find enough space to get balls to the floor with Mustang Libero Marissa Stark having a strong performance.
A kill and then block by Pisarik was sandwiched around another Mustang kill to start the third set. A rotation change to help Gladbrook-Reinbeck match up with the 6-foot-1 middle hitter Pisarik changed things for the Rebels. G-R settled in and after swings for kills by Addi Kickbush and then Emily Dinsdale, it closed to within 10-9. The Rebels stayed within three to four points the rest of the way before falling 25-20.
"I thought we played a strong third game," Koester said, "We just never could get ahead with the score."
Dinsdale finished with eight kills. Jenna Roeding, Emily Stoakes and Kickbush each had four kills. Erin Wentzien had 15 digs, while Roeding had three blocks and Stoakes two.
Hannah Whitley and Pisarik both had nine kills for Mount Vernon. Pisarik also had a match-high four blocks. Vandersall added five kills.
Coming in Gladbrook-Reinbeck knew it had to serve tough to slow the Mustangs.
"You can't run an attack if don't pass and it was our goal to do that with our serve," Koester said.
"Our serving was there, we had five misses. We tried to hit spots and hit away from their Libero. We did want we wanted to do with that," she added.
The Rebels reached 20 wins for the fourth straight season.
"We told the girls they have to be proud of the whole season," Koester said. "Of course you want to be one of the teams that get to go on to state and that was a goal. Mount Vernon has a good team and they played well. We just couldn't get the kills tonight."