By Trenten Scheidegger

Lauren Mellentine, of Pecatonica Indian volleyball, reached a very rare milestone of 1,000 career digs Oct. 14 at the Pecatonica Classic Volleyball Tournament. Mellentine and her team went undefeated in the tournament to bring home the championship.

    The Pecatonica Indians caught fire in the latter parts of their 2023 volleyball regular season. Just as many teams hope for at the start of the year, the Indians are playing their best ball when it matters most.

    After suffering a loss to the Aquin Bulldogs on Oct. 12, the Indians prepared for their final tournament of the regular season. They had the luxury of being on their home court for the tournament as they hosted the Pecatonica Classic on Oct. 14. There, the Indians faced off with North Boone, West Carroll, Scales Mound, Amboy, and River Ridge.

    It was also a big day for Pecatonica’s own Lauren Mellentine. With so many games slated for that Saturday, Mellentine had an opportunity to achieve something no other Pecatonica volleyball player has ever done before. Although the offensive stats often get the attention, Mellentine’s defensive focus cannot be overlooked. That game, Mellentine notched career dig number 1,000 as her energy on defense is unmatched. “This is a huge milestone for her and the school, as it has never been done,” Pecatonica’s Head Coach Lisa Mellentine shared. By the end of the regular season, Mellentine led the team in digs with 384. The senior led the team by 50 digs as their next closest finisher was junior Kianna Degner with 334.

    Mellentine’s career milestone came as part of a much bigger day for the entire Pecatonica squad. That morning, the Indians held a solid record of 14-11-3. By the end of the day, however, they found themselves in a much better position.

    In pool play, the Indians picked up victories over North Boone, West Carroll, and Scales Mound. They hardly broke a sweat in pool play as they dominated their way to three early victories. Pecatonica swept North Boone 21-12 and 21-5. Then, they swept West Carroll 21-8 and 21-10. Finally, the Indians swept Scales Mound 21-12 and 21-14.

    Mellentine had already notched 29 digs at that point in the day. Peyton Thomas led the way against North Boone with seven kills, while Elaina Rager added three total blocks. Degner had a solid game against West Carroll with five kills and eight assists. Mellentine racked up 10 digs in the victory over Scales Mound, while Rager added five kills and another block. Maren Davis added three kills in that victory, as well.

    After going 3-0 through pool play, the Indians propelled themselves into the championship bracket. There, they faced off with the Amboy Clippers and the River Ridge Wildcats. Amboy has struggled through much of the 2023 season. However, they picked up a pair of victories in pool play on Saturday. Those two victories doubled their win total for the year as they came into their matchup against Pecatonica with a record of 4-17-2.

    Once again, Pecatonica faced little resistance on their way to victory. The Indians took the first set 21-11 and completed the sweep with a 21-13 victory in the second set. Rager led the way offensively with eight kills against the Clippers. Both Thomas and Jaidon Hastings added three kills of their own. Degner led the team defensively with 11 digs to go along with fourteen assists and a pair of aces on offense. Casey Martin and Mellentine each finished with seven digs.

    After four consecutive victories, the Indians found themselves in the championship game, where they would face off with River Ridge. The Wildcats were arguably the toughest challenge Pecatonica would face on the day as they came in with a 23-7-3 overall record.

    The Indians were riding a wave of confidence, however. The opening set was a tight race to the finish, but they ultimately took a 1-0 advantage with a 21-19 victory. Although River Ridge would respond in a big way, the Wildcats responded with a 21-7 victory in set two, evening out the series. And while the Indians took a loss in the set, that was when Mellentine notched her career milestone in digs.

    When the celebration subsided, the Indians got back to work in the third and final set. There, Pecatonica clinched the championship of with a 15-11 victory. Lauren racked up 18 digs in the game, to go along with one ace and one kill. Degner finished the game with 15 assists, and Rager added six kills and a block. Hastings was versatile with six digs and three kills in the championship game.

    The Indians took their recent success and carried it into their final regular season game as they faced off with the Pearl City wolves on Oct. 17. With a 2-0 win over the Wolves, the Indians extended their winning streak to six consecutive games. After finishing the regular season with a record of 20-11-3, the Indians couldn’t ask to be in a better position as they prepare for the 2023 postseason.

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