Bobcats bounced by top-ranked Tigers
No. 1 Cedar Falls downs Marshalltown
CEDAR FALLS — Prior to Monday night’s Class 5A Region 6 final, the No. 1 Cedar Falls volleyball team had not lost a match to an opponent not named Dike-New Hartford. Unfortunately for the Bobcat faithful, that streak continued as No. 15 Marshalltown fell to the Tigers in three sets, 25-10, 25-15, 25-9.
Bobcats head coach Chris Brees said Cedar Falls (40-2) is essentially a class of its own this year, and when it comes to competing on the court it’s just difficult for the outsized and out-manned Marshalltown girls.
“They have a few girls who are committed to D-1 already and they are six-foot-three. My tallest girl on a good day is five-foot-nine,” Brees said after the season-ending loss. “Everything we tried to do on defense, they could just hit over our block consistently, and they serve really aggressive. They have demolished all 5A schools, Dike just plays an amazing defensive scheme but they have pretty much demolished every 5A school, so there is very little anyone can do against them but try to slow them down.”
Marshalltown started off the game slowly, leading to a 25-10 opening-set loss, but in the second set things seemed to calm down for the Bobcats. In fact, the Tigers only owned a 6-4 lead in the early going before eventually starting to pull away, and Brees said that had more to do with his girls not playing into what Cedar Falls wants to do.
“In game two we tried to slow down the game itself, taking time back to the service line and not letting them get into their offense as quickly,” he said. “That worked for us a little bit, but then they go on four- or five-point runs that are just impossible to stop sometimes and that takes your confidence away.”
Seniors Regan Mazour and Ciara Feldman ended the game as the offensive leaders, as they have been all season, recording six and seven kills respectively, followed by senior Molly Bach with three.
They also finished the game one and two defensively, with Feldman leading again with 11 digs and Mazour finishing with 10.
Marshalltown ends its season at 22-13, nine wins better than 2016 and the second-best record of Brees’ tenure as coach. He said this was a special season, even though they didn’t end with a trip to Cedar Rapids.
“It was a great season, I told them that this was actually the best group of young ladies I have coached,” he said. “That speaks a lot to them, of course did we want to win tonight? Sure, but we all know that life is a lot more than a volleyball match. Just to be good people and have good sportsmanship and respect each other, their teammates and their fellow coaches, I couldn’t ask for more.”
This year’s team was senior-laden, with seven girls playing in their final year for the Bobcats on the court. Bach, who progressed to become the team’s third offensive weapon this year, said all of the work she’s put into volleyball came to a head this season, and she couldn’t have enjoyed it more.
“For me personally, I feel like this was my best season,” Bach said. “I have been playing with these girls since I was in third grade, and it’s fun to see all of us progress as we got older. That was really cool, and I feel like we ended at a high point.”
In Brees’ first year coaching the Marshalltown girls, his team went 28-11, eventually losing in the regional finals to Cedar Falls. Though that team had a better record, Brees said this season was more satisfying because of how much he has been through with this class of seniors.
“It is hard not to get emotional when you talk about these seniors because it’s not just about what’s on the court, it’s about who they are and I will say that for ever,” he said. “I’ve had these girls for three years now, my first group lost here three years ago today, but I was only with them for a few months. This group I’ve been with for three years and seen what they do and how hard they compete. It’s hard for a coach to see that go because they are just great kids.”
Though losing the likes of Feldman, Mazour, Bach, McKenna Major, Sarah Jacobs, Emily Haas and Kaitlyn Martin will be a blow, there is still plenty of talent waiting in the wings to take up the mantle of Bobcats volleyball. Brees said it might take a down year to get everything all together, but when the current class of sophomores enter their senior year, Bobcat volleyball should be back in fighting shape.
“For the future, this group of seniors made a choice. Last year was a rough year but we knew that was going to happen because we were young and didn’t have a lot of court experience except Ciara and Regan,” Brees said. “We knew last year that this year would be better for us, so the young group now has to make that same choice to put in the commitment to making that happen. We had some late things in the season from some young people, so we will be OK next year, it’s just going to be a lot like last year.”
As for what the lasting legacy of the current senior class will be, Bach said she hopes the upcoming Bobcats take one important thing from the exit
“I hope we showed the underclassmen that you need to put in hard work. Run those alpines, do those extra wall sits and stuff because that helps you almost get to state like we did,” Bach said. “Maybe eventually that will push them the extra mile to go to state.”