The bad news about Monday's season-opening Bobcat volleyball match against Pella Christian was that Marshalltown gave away 12 points on serves alone.
The good news though is that MHS coach Terri Westendorf has seen her team serve better in practice and expects the misses to decrease as the season moves along.
The 12 misses though helped the Eagles claim a four-game win in the hot and steamy Roundhouse as Pella Christian won 25-17, 25-21, 19-25, 25-23.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Marshalltown sophomore Leiah Paustian tips the ball over the net against Pella Christian on Monday during the Bobcats’ season and home opener at the Roundhouse. Paustian finished with nine kills but MHS lost to the Eagles in four games.
"Serving definitely killed us tonight," Westendorf said. "We know that. It was some first-game jitters that probably played a part in that.
"They are capable. They just didn't do it. But I know that that is an area that we can improve because we have seen it. We needed to control our emotions and just put the ball in."
Nine of the 12 serving errors came in the first two sets. And the Eagles took advantage.
The Eagles had their share of miscues but rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the opener thanks to service aces in four of five points during an Eagles 7-0 run that turned a 6-all tie into a 13-6 lead. The four aces came from Lauren Jungling.
Marshalltown never got closer than three the rest of the way but another 5-0 spurt made it 23-15 and then the Eagles ended the frame with two straight points, including one on a rotation violation against the Bobcats.
Most of the sets Monday were back-and-forth and could have gone either way. That was the case for game two, a frame that saw 10 ties in the first 18 points.
The Eagles gained the first advantage of the game with three straight tallies but the Bobcats rallied behind back-to-back kills by sophomore Rachel Whaley and an Eagle mistake. Whaley finished with a team-high 14 kills and three blocks.
Despite the rally by Marshalltown, the Eagles still had momentum as they regained the three-point lead and then pushed it to five following kills by Laura Nicholson and Rebecca Gritters.
Kills by MHS seniors Kali Banks and Emily Rebik kept the Bobcats close and Whaley added three more kills to pull Marshalltown (0-1) to within two, but Hannah Beltman and Jungling put the Eagles up two games to none with back-to-back game-clinching kills.
Marshalltown managed to avoid the sweep in game three. The Bobcats grabbed an advantage thanks to consecutive kills from Whaley and then went up 9-5 after a Rebik blast. Pella Christian rallied to tie it at nine but four straight points by MHS helped the lead balloon back to four. The four points came from an Amanda Hughes kill, a Rebik kill, a Lindsey Ricken ace and an Eagle error.
The Marshalltown lead grew to as large as seven in the game and a service error by Pella Christian extended the match to a fourth game.
"You have to be proud of the effort," Westendorf said. "We ran a good offense. We had some really smart free balls and did a nice job overall. But we just have to get the serve in."
The largest lead for either team in the fourth frame was four. A back-and-forth battle had four ties before the Eagles grabbed the first real advantage at 13-9. Beltman had two kills and Marshalltown chipped two unforced errors during that stretch, but strong net games by Whaley, Rebik, Paustian and Banks kept the Bobcats close.
The Bobcats chipped away at the lead thanks to a few errors by the Eagles. Kills from Whaley, Rebik and Paustian all cut the Marshallown deficit to one before back-to-back kills from Banks put the Bobcats back in front.
Ties at 18, 19 and 20 followed but a Gritters kill and a Marshalltown error forced Westendorf into a timeout with her team down two. Pella Christian opened the door for the Bobcats with a service error, but Marshalltown gave back the momentum with a service miscue of its own on the next possession.
Paustian and Whaley tried to keep the Bobcats in it with consecutive kills that trimmed the Eagle lead to 24-23.
However, the final Eagle point of the match was put on the board thanks to a 12th and final service error.
"The only part I am disappointing in is that in that stage of the game and the season, we should be able to keep our serve in better than that," Westendorf said. "You can't fault the effort. They absolutely laid it on the line. We gave some great, great effort on defense and played with a lot of heart."
Despite the loss, Westendorf said there were a lot of good things done on the court from her young squad which only features one player with significant varsity experience. That is why the veteran Bobcat coach is keeping an open mind when it comes to her every-day lineup.,
"You are going to have to stay loose with this team and not get too concrete with your choices out there," Westendorf said. "We threw some kids out there, and we have to be able to make an adjustment. We are going to see different kids out there. There is the core of kids that will hold down their spots but the lineup could be different every night. There are still other girls playing for spots. We will keep our eyes open and our minds open to other options if we have to."
Paustian finished with nine kills, one block and was 12-for-14 in serves. Rebik added eight kills and hit 18 of her 19 serve attempts.
Ricken was 15-for-16 with the only Bobcat ace and Jordyn Simbides was 13-of-15 in serves. Senior libero Sharissa Stansberry added a team-high 12 digs, while junior Molly Major had seven.
Marshalltown's next match will be at West Des Moines Valley on Sept. 3. ... Monday's start time against Pella Christian was pushed back due to excessive heat. The varsity was originally scheduled to begin at 6:15 but was rescheduled for 7:15. School also dismissed at 12:30 p.m. ... The Bobcats lost virtually every starter from last year's 22-17 squad. Paustian is the only returning Bobcat with any significant varsity experience.