Marshalltown Community College head coach Chris Brees and assistant coach Joe De Monte arrived on campus on July 30 with just three players on the varsity roster.
A month and a half later that number has grown to eight but depth will certainly be an issue the rest of the season as the new volleyball coaching staff tries to rebuild the Tiger program.
Tuesday night, in the home opener at the Tiger Student Activities Center, No. 8 Kirkwood flexed their muscles in a three-game sweep, winning 25-17, 25-13, 25-11.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
MCC freshmen Alyssa Whitmore and Sam Oujiri converge on an attack shot from Kirkwood Community College on Tuesday during volleyball action at the Tiger Student Activities Center. The Tigers lost to the eighth-ranked Eagles in straight sets.
"Depth will definitely come into play," Brees said. "We just don't have the horses yet to compete with programs like Kirkwood. That team we played tonight knows what they are doing."
Unfortunately for Brees, the Tigers will run into four more ranked teams within the conference this season. And his players' physical fitness will be tested in a long season where each and every match - including tournaments - are best-of-five.
The Tigers had their moments Tuesday night, but the Eagles were just too much in the end.
MCC (2-8) started off strong, holding down a 7-all tie early in the opening frame. But any thought of holding down a lead or even keeping the game tied was squashed when Kirkwood's freshman Libero Cali Beyer served for 11 straight points, giving the Eagles an 18-7 lead. Beyer had two aces during that stretch and the rest of the damage was done by sophomore hitter Ashley Gonzalez, who blasted three kills during the run and six kills in the frame.
MCC's Mady Van Metre tried to keep her Tigers in the game with six kills of her own, but Kirkwood threw body after body at MCC and came away with an easy victory. Sophomore Sam Oujiri had three kills and one ace in the frame for the Tigers.
"We only have two sophomores on this team, so it is a lot to ask of freshmen to compete against a nationally ranked team like Kirkwood," Brees said. "We just ask that they play hard for us every night and give us everything they had. We showed flashes tonight. But we have to get out of those long serving runs by other teams."
Van Metre got off to a quick start in Game 2 with two kills to give the Tigers an early advantage, but Gonzalez and former BCLUW standout Brittany Ambler went to work at the net. Ambler tied it at 2 and then added another kill for a 4-2 Kirkwood lead later. Kirkwood eventually led 14-8 before rolling off six straight points. Van Metre ended the run with another kill, but the damage had been done. Ambler added two more kills in the frame as the Eagles closed out the Tigers 25-13.
Another long service run by Beyer doomed MCC in Game 3. An Ambler ace early made it 6-3 in favor of the visitors, and after an MCC point, the Eagles rolled off 11 straight points on Beyer's serve and pushed their lead to 17-4. Gonzalez had four kills during that stretch, a run in which Brees tried to halt with two timeouts.
"It was the same rotation both times that hurt us on Beyer's serve," Brees said. "We couldn't get out of that rotation."
Oujiri ended the run with a kill but a service error gave possession right back to Kirkwood. Back-to-back aces by Eagle sophomore Alexus Litts made it 20-5. MCC outscored the Eagles 6-5 the rest of the way but it was too little, too late as Kirkwood (13-4) walked away with a road sweep.
"We have kids who do not know how to win yet," Brees said. "They were not star players on their high school teams or they did not play on good high school teams. We need to learn how to win and we are trying to teach them how to win."
Van Metre was in the back row both times Kirkwood went on its service runs. The Tigers tried to set her up with back-row kills in that situation but Brees knows one great player will never beat a nationally ranked squad.
"Kirkwood knows who our best players are," Brees said. "And they knew if they could stop No. 4 (Van Metre), they'd be successful."
Van Metre finished with a team-high 13 kills. Oujiri was next in line with just five kills. Freshman libero Ashley Salgado ended up with a team-high 16 assists, while sophomore setter Tanya Literski had 19 assists.
Ambler and Gonzalez both had double-digit kills to lead the Eagles in the win.
MCC will next play in the MCC Tiger Invitational on Friday and Saturday inside the Tiger Student Activities Center. The Tigers will open up with the Graceland JV at 2 p.m. Friday before taking on Lincoln Land at 6 p.m. Friday.
The Tigers will then play Coffeyville and Neosho County on Saturday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.
Other schools also in attendance include DMACC, NIACC and Central's JV.