Aliyah Carter has had her fair share of memorable intracity volleyball matches over the years.
Tuesday night’s explosion couldn’t have served as a more appropriate sendoff.
The Dubuque Wahlert senior outside went off for a match-high 25 kills as the Iowa Class 4A No. 1 Golden Eagles swept rival Hempstead, 25-12, 25-20, 25-16, in Moody Gym.
Four years ago, Carter suited up as a starting freshman middle for the Mustangs and has produced some gaudy numbers in Dubuque-based matches ever since. On Tuesday, Dubuquers saw her seemingly take it to another level. Carter is hitting the ball harder than ever before, and her array of shots on this night was nothing short of jaw-dropping.
“It’s a great feeling because over the years I’ve had great teams to be around,” said Carter, a Kansas State recruit who also finished with a match-high four blocks in the contest. “The whole team was just excited to come out and play a rival. We knew that they’re a good team and they were going to come out with some finesse, and we were just excited to play.”
The match was also the return of another former Mustang who also had a career night. Wahlert middle Ella Pettinger started two seasons for Hempstead before switching to the Eagles. Her previous career best was three kills in a single match. On Tuesday, she put down seven balls, including a tip-kill on match point to clinch the sweep.
“I just tried to stay calm and focus on my job,” said Pettinger, a junior. “I don’t know, I guess I was just feeling it”
The Eagles (2-0) wasted little time jumping on the Mustangs (1-1) with back-to-back Pettinger kills giving her team a 7-2 lead to start Set 1.An ace by Rachel Eddy capped a 7-1 Wahlert run for a 14-5 lead and Hempstead never got within seven to drop the first set.
The Mustangs were able to clean things up better in the second set when Laney Herman led off with an ace and served two more points for a 3-0 lead. Hempstead and Wahlert would trade the lead four more times in the frame with 12 ties, playing all the way to a 20-20 draw in Set 2.
A Mustangs error put Eddy back to the service line with a 21-20 lead, and the Eagles libero rattled off four straight points to close out a 2-0 lead in the match.
“I think the nerves got the best of us. First home game, the crowds, the excitement of a city match,” said first-year Hempstead coach Jacque Arensdorf. “We just couldn’t shake those nerves. I think that we’re capable of playing much better. It’s just a hard matchup to learn what we need to do differently.”
Carter had three kills during a 9-0 Wahlert run to start Set 3. After the Mustangs finally sided out, she then drilled back-to-back bounces into the hardwood for an 11-1 Eagles lead and they went up by as much as 12 before Hempstead started to rally.
Leah Moeller went on a brief serving run to cut the Mustangs’ deficit to 23-16 late in the match. Carter followed with a tip-kill to put Wahlert to match point and Pettinger ended it with a nice placement over the Hempstead block.
Lauryn Montgomery paced the Eagles offense with 35 assists along with a team-high five aces and 12 digs. Eddy finished with eight digs. Corinne Meier led Hempstead with eight kills while Megan Hammerand finished with a team-high seven digs.
Given the way she’s played on Dubuque courts over the years, it’s no surprise that Carter said she’ll miss those environments. It made it that much sweeter to end on such a high note.
“It’s going to be sad knowing that I won’t play in Dubuque anymore, but I’m happy knowing I’m going on to bigger and better things,” she said.