Drop the hammer
Marshalltown volleyball sweeps aside Southeast Polk in home opener
After a week layoff from its opening games of the season, the Marshalltown volleyball team welcomed in Southeast Polk on Tuesday night for its home opener.
From the opening serve, the Bobcats were all over the Rams, rolling to a three-set sweep of their cross-CIML foe, 25-15, 25-20, 25-9.
After the victory, MHS senior Regan Mazour said her team was firing on all cylinders against Southeast Polk, specifically on the defensive end.
“I think we played excellent defense, we executed when we needed to execute and our blocks were on fire,” she said.
Mazour was right to say her team’s blocks were “on fire” as they had nine total in the win, two from Mazour herself. Senior Molly Bach led the way in blocks with two assists and one solo send back.
Considering the Bobcats (2-2) only had six total blocks in their first three matches of the season, head coach Chris Brees said that was the stat that stuck out the most from this win.
“We probably blocked better than we have in a long time tonight,” Brees said. “It helps that we were shading out there, knowing where that ball was going to go and closing it. We still have a lot of work to do on that, but I am glad we were putting up some block totals that we hadn’t been.”
That knowledge of the game and anticipation of where the ball would be was present all night for the Bobcats, as they generally played a very cerebral game against the Rams (3-5). Mazour said a lot of that anticipation and volleyball IQ comes from the team’s ability to communicate on the court.
“We have really good communication on where to put the ball and what we see is open, and we really executed that today,” she said.
Of course that kind of knowledge of their opponent doesn’t just come naturally, as Brees said he spent a lot of time in the film room breaking down the tendencies of Southeast Polk and what they want to do.
“I did some really good scouting on their team and we knew what we needed to do,” he said. “We were in the right place every time and we knew exactly where they were going to hit.”
Blocks weren’t the only defensive stat the Bobcats excelled in Tuesday night, as they put up 64 total digs in the game, led by senior Ciara Feldman with 16, Mazour with 14, sophomore Madi Finch with 12 and senior McKenna Major with 10.
Brees said it helped that the Rams don’t boast an attacker over six feet in their arsenal, but overall his girls just played a solid defensive night.
“The difference between us tonight and when we play the other teams like Dowling and Waukee is they are just giants and we’re not,” Brees said. “We don’t even have a giant on the bench, so we have to focus on our defense. We have said that from the beginning, we are going to take some knocks from those big dogs that swing hard but once we become more consistent — and I thought we were very consistent tonight — I think we will compete against those teams because we will make them make the errors.”
Southeast Polk only had 22 kills on the evening, led by Abbie Johnson and Alex Donohoe who each had seven.
Marshalltown had 31 total kills, with Mazour leading the way with 18 put downs.
“Reagan probably had one of her better nights that she’s had for probably a season now,” Brees said of his offensive leader. “She had some good games last year but I think it looked like she was very comfortable tonight, playing her game and doing what she does well. We gave her the ball quite a bit but we weren’t forcing her balls that she couldn’t hit.”
Unlike in 2016, it wasn’t just the Mazour show on offense, as Feldman stepped up with eight kills of her own and girls like Bach and sophomore Erica Johnson made their presence felt at the net. Mazour said she welcomes the extra offensive prowess from her teammates and she was pleased with how they swung on the night.
“Everyone did outstanding and when they got set the ball they put it down,” she said. “We kept the ball in play when we needed to keep it in play, but when we had the opportunity to put it down we obviously did that.”
Before the season, Brees talked about having other people step up offensively to take some of the kill burden off Mazour, and he said Tuesday night he was very encouraged with what he saw from the other girls on the team but he still wants to see some other girls get more involved.
“I was very happy with Molly, we need to get Emily (Haas) and Erica the ball a little bit more but that will come,” he said. “I said a few weeks ago that if we had three people we’d be alright, and we have our third person now so if we can get a fourth that will help us a lot.”
Up next for Marshalltown is a set of home matches against Southeast Polk, Des Moines Roosevelt and Waverly-Shell Rock at home on Thursday. Brees said he would love for the girls to carry their unbeaten home record through those matches, but at this moment he isn’t necessarily focused on the win-loss column.
“You get in a very difficult place if you start worrying about wins and losses at this part of the season,” he said. “You have to worry about improvements. I look at kill efficiency, I look at digs per game, those type of things more than a win or loss. Of course I want to win, but we need to focus on October and not so much August.”