Bach bolsters Bobcat attack

No. 15 Marshalltown advances past Ames, into regional finals

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE • Marshalltown senior middle hitter Molly Bach (9) goes up for one of her season-high 10 kills during the first set of the Bobcats’ three-game sweep of Ames in Tuesday’s Class 5A Region 6 semifinal at the Roundhouse. Casey Hinders (10) defends for Ames while Emily Hass (4) looks on for the No. 15 Bobcats, who swept the Little Cyclones 25-22, 25-13, 25-19.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE • Marshalltown senior middle hitter Molly Bach (9) goes up for one of her season-high 10 kills during the first set of the Bobcats’ three-game sweep of Ames in Tuesday’s Class 5A Region 6 semifinal at the Roundhouse. Casey Hinders (10) defends for Ames while Emily Hass (4) looks on for the No. 15 Bobcats, who swept the Little Cyclones 25-22, 25-13, 25-19.

It’s only natural to focus your attention on two of the top attackers in Class 5A when scouting the Marshalltown volleyball team. Senior outside hitters Regan Mazour and Ciara Feldman rank eighth and 18th in the state in kills, after all.

Ames found out firsthand how effective the Bobcats’ middle hitters can be when you cheat your blockers toward the antennae.

MHS senior middle hitter Molly Bach matched her career-high with 10 kills to complement 17 apiece for Mazour and Feldman as the No. 15 Bobcats swept aside the Little Cyclones in three sets in Tuesday’s Region 6 semifinal at the Roundhouse. Bach’s steady scoring presence made it impossible for Ames to keep pace with MHS, and the Bobcat seniors closed out their final home-court match with a 25-22, 25-13, 25-19 triumph.

Marshalltown advances to the regional finals next Monday night against top-ranked Cedar Falls (39-2) on the Tigers’ home court.

“The second half of the season Molly’s really turned it on,” said Marshalltown head coach Chris Brees. “Madi [Finch] has gotten more comfortable setting her and using her and we really got the ball to her in good spots tonight. Molly was playing really smart too, knowing when to tip it but also going corner to corner, which we were hoping would happen.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE • Marshalltown senior outside hitter Ciara Feldman, top, blocks an Ames pass at the net during the first set of Tuesday’s Class 5A Region 6 semifinal at the Roundhouse. Feldman matched her career-high with 17 kills in the Bobcat victory.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE • Marshalltown senior outside hitter Ciara Feldman, top, blocks an Ames pass at the net during the first set of Tuesday’s Class 5A Region 6 semifinal at the Roundhouse. Feldman matched her career-high with 17 kills in the Bobcat victory.

“[Ames] keyed on Regan and Ciara and that opened things up in the middle. She got a lot of one-on-one, and she’s getting better at cutting that ball and swinging with more authority. It was almost automatic.”

Bach finished with 10 kills on 21 attempts with only one swinging error, warranting the third-most sets from Finch throughout the match. The Bobcats scuffled a bit at the beginning of the regional semifinal but found their way back into rhythm by serving and swinging more aggressively as the battle wore on.

“I think we made too many errors in the first set but I never felt tension on the court,” said Mazour, one of six Bobcat seniors who played in their final home match. “I felt like we were always loose and able to finish the game. We knew Ames had a big block and we didn’t want to hit into that, so we were tipping a lot at the start, and our serves were kind of lollipops.”

Emily Hass and Erica Johnson were rewarded for their increasingly aggressive serving, chalking up three and two aces respectively, as Marshalltown (22-12) managed to take Ames out of its offense by creating difficult passing opportunities. The Bobcats made their move offensively with a balanced attack that included Bach more than the Little Cyclones (7-27) had anticipated.

“They’re a really well-rounded team, a lot of seniors and they’re very talented,” said Ames coach Peter Cruz. “Their middles are deceptive because you don’t expect them to get the ball very much, and when they do they sneak around the block. They’re effective hitting around the block, which in the end is all that really matters.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

“We gameplanned all week, we watched film — we knew what was coming but we couldn’t really effectively stop it.”

Finch, a sophomore, finished with 40 assists thanks to a wide-open arsenal.

“It’s always great to have Molly putting the ball down and getting kills,” said Finch. “It’s just great to use her when we know she’s on fire and really killing the ball and you don’t have to go outside every time. She knows when she’s on fire too so she’s doing well and it’s good when we have another option.”

Hass accounted for another four kills, primarily on the right side, and Finch dumped down a kill when Ames wasn’t expecting it late in the second set. Feldman had just scored a back-row attack and Bach had back-to-back quick sets find the floor, and Finch took the chance when a slightly errant pass took her above the net.

“Molly and Erica and Emily all did very well, and Madi got a kill — we love it when Madi gets kills — and Molly went up when we needed her to,” said Mazour. “When everyone goes up to hit it really opens up Ciara and I, so if everyone’s calling for the ball and Ciara or I get it, we’re usually one-on-one.”

Both the Bobcats and the Little Cyclones totaled three blocks. Bach had one solo and one assist to lead MHS, while Christabel Forney had two assists to lead Ames.

Mazour paced Marshalltown with 26 digs and was 17-for-17 at the service line, while Feldman and Johnson were 11-for-11, Hass was 12-for-12 and McKenna Major was 9-for-9. Major contributed 18 digs and Feldman had 17 more, while fellow senior Sarah Jacobs stepped in and served an aggressive 5-for-7 while trying solely to take Ames out of system when middle hitter Katelyn Courtney was at the net.

Courtney still finished with a team-leading nine kills for Ames, Hannah Buckels added eight and Forney had four more. Breanna Schumer added three kills and the lone Little Cyclone service ace.

“I think that crowd got in their head a little bit, too,” said Cruz. “We’re not used to that, even at some of our conference rivals we’re not used to that. I think that rattled them a bit … and we let it snowball. We regrouped, just not enough.”