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Mohns stacks the Cards
Photo for the Times: Christopher Heimerman Brodhead junior Mariah Mohns fires a spike kill around a Clinton double block during the opening game of Tuesdays 3-2 Cardinals win.
BRODHEAD - When the Cardinals' volleyball match started to take an ugly turn Tuesday night, Mariah Mohns took lead and fueled Brodhead's 25-17, 22-25, 23-25, 25-16, 15-6, victory over Clinton.

Brodhead coach Eric Ebensperger was hearing a familiar tune when his team failed to pull out Games 2 and 3.

"When we came out of the third game, I said somebody had to step up and take it to the next level; nobody has all year," Ebensperger said. "That's when Mariah Mohns went on fire. She played out of her head."

After the left-handed Mohns registered one of her 10 block kills to give the Cards a 12-7 lead in the fourth game, the Cougars (2-6 Rock Valley South) rallied for five unanswered points. After the teams played to 15-all, the Cardinals (4-4) rattled off eight unanswered points behind service by Dana Lewis, who capped the string with an ace.

With her team up 24-16, Mohns capped her breakout game with another block kill. After her heavy kill try was dug out, Mohns headily slid along the net to her right and stuffed the errant Cougar dig with two hands.

"I love blocking, it's my favorite part of the game," Mohns said. "I love to put the ball down."

Mohns triggered a string of eight Cardinal points with a spike kill into the heart of the Cougar defense to give her team a 10-2 lead in the finale. Midway through the run, she used a crafty back set by Megan Heller and rifled the helper down the right side.

Clinton, down 7-2, tried to quell the Cardinals' momentum with a time out, but first Taylor Douglas rattled a kill through a double block and then tipped a kill after a pair of nice passes near the back line by Lewis and Amanda Johnson gave the freshman another opportunity.

"(Douglas) is getting better every time she's out on the court," Ebensperger said. "She's great on the outside and she's gonna be awesome someday, I feel."

The Cougars made things interesting, drawing close at 11-6, but the Cardinals held court, which was music to Mohns' ears.

"To come back and win felt great," she said. "We just had to control ourselves and make the game ours, not theirs."

Brodhead squandered leads in Games 2 and 3, including a 21-15 advantage in the third tilt as Clinton used a different lineup and its sophomores stepped up - that is, momentarily.

"The momentum in volleyball can change so quickly," Clinton coach Sara Douglas said. "You can get a block and a kill and the next minute shank the ball and the other team gets rolling."

Lewis, who led Brodhead with 16 kills and five aces, came out swinging in Game 1. Her Cardinals rolled in the opener. She capped a lengthy point with a heavy spike kill to give her squad a 13-10 lead. Later, she drilled a spike along the right boundary, all but finishing off the opener as the Cards led 23-17.

Ebensperger simplified the offense Tuesday night and his setters, Heller, a senior, and freshman Amanda Pickel, responded exceptionally.

"They can both really move and get to stuff," Ebensperger said. "This new system really gives them the opportunity."

Heller gave her teammates ample opportunities to step up with 23 assists, and Pickel added 12 helpers. Per usual, Johnson showed selflessness and little regard for personal safety with eight digs. Pickel added seven.

Kendra Jeffers and Danielle Billington both dug out 20 shots for Clinton and 5-feet,10-inch middle blocker Maggie Schultz led the Cougars with six kills and eight block kills.

After watching his club "play not to lose" several conference tilts this season, Ebensperger was thrilled to see his Cardinals dancing to a different beat once Game 4 arrived. Now he hopes they can maintain such an upbeat rhythm the rest of the season.

"This is something we could really use; we really needed this game," Ebensperger said.