Last year as a freshman, Mendota middle hitter Kalli Scheppers was given the nickname "My Little Pony" by head coach Jeanne McKenzie, who likes to have a little playful fun with her underclassmen.
Scheppers went on to have a big freshman season.
This year, there's another freshman in the mix. McKenzie and crew like to call her "Mr. Bubbles," and she is otherwise known as middle hitter Rachel Barr.
Tuesday night, "My Little Pony" and "Mr. Bubbles" had a little playful fun at the expense of rival Hall at Red Devil Gymnasium in Spring Valley.
Barr and Scheppers led the way, each putting down seven kills as Mendota's middles helped the Spikers to a 25-15, 25-13 NCIC Lincoln Division victory over the Lady Devils.
"It's pretty cool," Barr said of her performance as a freshman. "With a team like this, they all support me. All the hitters are really strong."
Mendota (26-8, 6-3 in NCIC Lincoln) took a while to get all the parts moving in the first game, falling behind 5-2 on a Kelle Nett ace before playing to six ties with the Lady Devils (9-24, 2-7).
The Spikers pulled ahead for good at 14-13 on a back-row kill by senior libero Emily Bodmer, which was followed by a kill from Scheppers.
"We have what it takes, but it's just a matter of staying mentally intense the whole match," McKenzie said. "I saw it (Tuesday) night. They were intense the whole match. I thought defensively we played tough. I thought offensively we played tough. I thought Rachel Barr had a whale of a game."
A Nett kill pulled Hall within three points at 18-15, but Barr and senior Karina Arteaga each put down a kill, and junior setter Amanda Hild served out from a 19-15 lead with six consecutive points with one ace for a 25-15 game-one victory.
"Mendota played controlled," Hall head coach Dani Zellmer said. "They were doing the same thing over and over again. They were tipping to left and hitting to our right. It was repetitive, and for some reason, we weren't getting it."
Game two wasn't much better for the Lady Devils.
Scheppers started the game with two straight kills on sets from senior Selena Waido, and thanks to a Hall serve error and a Scheppers block, Mendota took an early 6-1 lead.
Back-to-back Barr kills kept the Spiker advantage at six points at 9-3, and later with an 11-4 lead, the Spikers took advantage of three points from Bodmer and a Bri Pohl kill for a 15-4 lead.
"We served 100 percent again," said McKenzie, whose Spikers committed no service errors to Hall's four. "They are breaking me. Every time they serve 100 percent they get some kind of treat."
The treat for McKenzie was watching her team close out Hall in quick fashion.
The Lady Devils pulled within nine points at 18-9 on a Johnna Schultz ace, but they never trailed by less than 10 points the rest of the way.
Waido had a huge dump kill on a spirited volley kept alive by a Bodmer dig on a booming hit by Hall's Brigitte Klein, and senior Emily Cagan and Barr each put down one kill in the game's final six points as Mendota took a 25-13 game-two win.
"They do have great hitters," Zellmer said of the Spikers. "But our girls weren't putting our blocks together. We definitely bring our game out there, but Mendota always brings their game out. Mendota is always a composed, well-put-together team."
Hild finished with 11 points, 11 assists and one ace for the Spikers, and Pohl added 12 digs, five points and three kills in the win. Bodmer led a strong Mendota defense with 18 digs.
Senior hitter Katelyn Raineri led Hall with eight kills and 11 digs in the loss.
Notes: The Mendota sophomores took home a 25-18, 25-10 victory over Hall in the preliminary match.
Jim Cogdal can be reached at 223-3200, ext. 139, or at email@example.com.