AMES - The Central Iowa Conference's Northern Division has its inaugural champion.
The Marshalltown volleyball team guaranteed itself at least a share of its newly aligned section of the CIML by sweeping rival Ames on Tuesday night, 25-21, 25-23, 25-21.
Eisha Oden hammered out 21 kills - matching teammate Miranda Smith for the seventh-best single-match performance in Class 5A this season - and the Bobcats (17-14, 2-0) claimed their second conference title in the last three years.
"And we took their Senior Night away from them as well," said MHS head coach Terri Westendorf of Ames. "Our girls absolutely had the focus right where they needed to be.
"In game two we spotted them seven points, we were down 7-0, but they never got rattled, they kept clawing forward and by the end of the game we'd won."
Oden's colossal kills total came on just 38 attempts, and her .395 kill efficiency helped the Bobcats win their eighth straight against unranked teams.
"It's kind of clich but the girls kept their eyes on the prize the entire way through the game," Westendorf added.
Lauren Mazour had 12 kills on a whopping 46 attempts, while Miranda Smith scored nine kills. Setter Madi Bellile doled out 40 assists on the night and was one of four Bobcats with double-digit digs. Mazour led with 23 digs, Leiah Paustian had 18, Morgan Bellile 15 and Madi Bellile 13 in withstanding a capable Ames attack.
"Lauren Mazour was very much our leader out there tonight, and Madi Bellile played a heck of a game," said Westendorf. "She was dishing the ball out exactly where it needed to be.
"And we played phenomenal defense - we had 79 digs as a team. The girls were right in their zone, they sat there and picked them up, and kudos to our blockers all the way around."
Smith led the way with three block assists, while Mazour and Cassidy Blackford had two apiece.
Morgan Bellile led the way serving, going 18-for-18 with two aces, while Megan Major was 11-for-12 with two aces. As a team, MHS served 70-for-74 with seven aces.
"As I told the girls in the locker room, it felt like we played a couple really nice games tonight, win, lose or otherwise," Westendorf said. "I'm confident with where they're at. They played relaxed, smart, I feel good with how they're gelling out there on the floor."
Ames (19-13, 1-1) entered the conference showdown having won eight of 11 with losses to 2A No. 1 Western Christian, 5A No. 1 Ankeny and 4A No. 4 Waverly-Shell Rock. Six of the Bobcats' last seven defeats have been at the hands of ranked teams, and a pair of weekend wins over rated clubs gave Marshalltown added confidence coming into this critical CIC clash.
It will be more of the same for the Bobcats on Saturday as they go to the Johnston Invite.
"The girls need to see some of that competition going into the end of the season," Westendorf said. "We need to start picking off some of these teams to get our sights set a little bit higher."
MHS wraps up the regular season next Tuesday with its CIC North finale against Mason City in the Roundhouse.