Marshalltown volleyball coach Terri Westendorf needed to find more consistency with her team's back row. She changed up her lineup a bit this past weekend at the Urbandale Tournament and stuck with the new look Tuesday against Central Iowa Conference Northern Division rival Fort Dodge.
Senior Morgan Bellile, who moved from the front row to libero over the weekend, had a team-high 19 digs, her sister Madi Bellile had a team-high 33 assists and Eisha Oden finished with 17 kills as the Bobcats dumped the Dodgers, 25-14, 25-20, 25-22.
"We needed that one for sure," Westendorf said. "The first game was very smooth. Fort Dodge battled, but every time they got a point, we came back and got our point. We didn't let them get on any kind of a run."
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
MHS senior Eisha Oden had a team-high 17 kills against Fort Dodge on Tuesday during the Bobcats’ three-game sweep. MHS is now 13-12 overall and 1-0 in CIML Northern Division play.
Westendorf feels like the move to put Morgan Bellile at libero helps her back-row defense. Morgan moves quicker than anyone else on the team, and the Bobcats seem to play more consistent when she is back there controlling the passes.
"We felt like our defense wasn't quite where we wanted it," Westendorf said. "(Morgan) makes us more consistent. She has handled the move well, too. It really puts her in her best position for the entire match."
The Bobcats controlled most of the play against Fort Dodge on Tuesday at the Roundhouse. Oden began all three games with a point by either kill or block. In the opener, she started things off with a block and then made it 3-1 later with a kill.
Finishing with 17 kills, Westendorf said she may have played her best match of the season.
"When she can get over the blocker, she's hard to dig and hard to stop," Westendorf said. "This was one of her better games. It was a consistent match throughout."
Fort Dodge managed to even the opening game up at 4 early but the Bobcats used six straight points - four from Oden - to push the lead to 10-4. The Bobcats (13-12, 1-0) were never really challenged after that.
Lauren Mazour had three kills later in the game and Leiah Paustian had three kills. Mazour finished with a double-double on the day, collecting 12 kills and 13 digs.
Oden scored the Bobcats' first three points of the second game, but Fort Dodge kept things close thanks to solid play from junior Lexi Astor. Most of the points Marshalltown surrendered came on its own errors. A lot of the other points came by way of kill or block by Astor.
The second game had eight ties before the Bobcats could finally pull away. Fort Dodge was within 15-14 before three straight MHS points gave the Bobcats a four-point advantage.
The lead stayed right around four the rest of the way and Marshalltown eventually won by five.
The most competitive game was the final one. Even though it looked early like the Bobcats would have an easy time - they led 7-2 - Fort Dodge rallied to stay close. Back-to-back kills by Mazour made it 10-7 and a kill by Miranda Smith pushed it to 13-10, but the Dodgers rallied to tie it at 13. The game also was tied at 14 and eventually at 20. Kills by Mazour and Smith as a well as a net violation by Fort Dodge made it 23-20. Smith then finished off the Dodgers with the final two points of the match.
Oden was stuck on the bench late in the final game, but Marshalltown got big performances from Smith and sophomore Cassidy Blackford and came through with the win.
"When Miranda (Smith) is on, she's just as deadly as Eisha (Oden)," Westendorf said. "Lauren can put the ball anywhere she wants to. And Cassidy came through for us tonight. She may have lacked confidence coming in, but I think tonight was a big boost for her. She'll be able to fill in for Morgan on the front row."
The Bobcats are now better than .500 on the season, and the win over Fort Dodge came in the opening match of the new CIC Northern Division.
"It's a good start," Westendorf said. "Ames is a good team though, and it'll take a good match to beat them. Hopefully this gives us some confidence."
In other volleyball action Tuesday, the Marshalltown junior varsity won 25-17, 21-25, 15-12. The Fort Dodge sophomores beat MHS 20-25, 25-21, 15-11, and the Bobcat freshman teams split. The freshman 'A' squad won 25-17, 25-20, while the Fort Dodge 'B' team won 23-25, 25-18, 15-12. ... Smith finished with seven kills in the match, and three came in the final three points for Marshalltown. Madi Bellile also finished with a double-double as she had 33 assists and 15 digs. Blackford had two blocks as well. ... Smith was a perfect 14-for-14 in serving with two aces. Madi Bellile was 20-for-21 with one ace and Megan Major was 12-of-13 with one ace. ... The Bobcats next play in the Oskaloosa Invitational. That tourney will begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. The matchup with Ames will take place Tuesday in Ames.