Upsetting Ames to reach the 2007 state tournament will rank atop Taylor Gaffney's list of best volleyball victories forever.
Tuesday's 3-1 triumph on Marshalltown's senior night?
Not far off.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Marshalltown sophomore Jordan Loney (9) turns away this tip attempt by Ames setter Kira Boswell during the first game of Tuesday’s CIML Iowa Conference volleyball match at the Roundhouse.
Gaffney and eight other Bobcat volleyball seniors said farewell to the Roundhouse with some flair, finding their way past rival Ames 25-20, 20-25, 25-15, 25-20 to move into a tie for second place in the CIML Iowa Conference.
All nine seniors saw the court as Marshalltown (19-11, 3-1) moved to within one game of fourth-ranked West Des Moines Valley (30-4, 4-0) for the league lead, tying them with Waukee. The Warriors lost 3-1 at Valley on Tuesday, and Marshalltown closes out the conference and regular season schedule Oct. 21 in Waukee.
"We'll have to beat Waukee if we want to get second in the conference, but if we hadn't won tonight there would be no opportunity for second," Gaffney said after Tuesday's match. "(Beating Ames) Last year was a little bit more exciting, but tonight was definitely really exciting. We lost a lot of good girls from last year's team, but we pulled together and it really means something to me to see the underclassmen step up the way they have.
"I'm really happy to get to play this way our last time in the Roundhouse."
The Bobcats scored their third straight victory behind perhaps their best blocking performance of the season against an Ames attack led by senior outside hitter Taylor Sloter. The Little Cyclones had also swept MHS, 25-20, 25-20, in the Urbandale Invitational just over a week ago.
"We talked a lot about Taylor and that she's a very good hitter ... and we couldn't have done a better job of shutting her down the way we did," said MHS head coach Terri Westendorf. "Getting that block in place started making her tentative, and all six girls stepped up at the net and were doing a tremendous job.
"The block was stellar, and when the block let up, the defense picked it up."
Marshalltown trailed Ames 5-0 early in the third game with the match tied 1-1, but the net defense sparked a comeback. Junior Lauren Lockhart and Gaffney had back-to-back solo stops at the net, and two more blocks for Lockhart made it a 7-all tie.
MHS scored 10 of the next 12 points to put Ames in its rear-view mirror to stay, capped by consecutive aces for senior Libero Caitlyn Shiek. A 6-0 Bobcat rally ended the third game and put Sloter and the Little Cyclones into an emotional funk they never seemed to recover from.
Marshalltown jumped out to an 8-4 advantage in game four, and two more blocks by Lockhart made it 16-6. The Bobcats led the fourth game by as many as nine, 21-12, before Ames tried in vain to rally.
"I think we did a good job of frustrating Sloter," Gaffney said.
The Little Cyclones' leading hitter posted a team-high 14 kills, though only one of them came in the third game when Marshalltown totaled six blocks.
The Bobcats recorded 16 total ace blocks in the match, led by Lockhart's seven. Junior Terrell Britto and sophomore Nicole Peschong racked up five apiece and Gaffney added three.
Lockhart also led the way with 14 kills and sophomore Jordan Loney had 12. Gaffney contributed five while Kaley Hansen and Britto both had two.
The Bobcats were a high percentage team for most of the night, committing only four service errors and 12 swinging errors. Lockhart had three of Marshalltown's eight aces.
"There wasn't a down side to any of it," Westendorf beamed. "It was all-around a fantastic game."
Senior setters Danielle Eberline and Erin Ricken handed out 18 and 17 assists, respectively, and Shiek led with 15 digs.
Ames (21-11, 1-3) got 11 kills from Stephanie Keller, seven from Erin Smith and six from Brianna Goodman. Smith added three blocks and Sammi Ausborn had three aces as the Little Cyclones suffered their third straight loss.
Marshalltown, Ames and Waukee will all be in attendance at the Johnston Invitational this Saturday before closing out conference play the following Tuesday.
Marshalltown nearly scored the sweep of Ames in the underclass ranks. The Bobcat junior varsity took a 25-21, 25-15 victory, and the sophomores prevailed 25-10, 25-13. Ames won the freshman match, 25-21, 20-25, 15-11.