Finish with a bang
Marshalltown netters sweep Johnston in final home game
In its final home game of the season on Thursday night, the Marshalltown volleyball team got the job done against CIML Iowa Conference foe Johnston in three very different ways to earn a 3-0 sweep victory.
To open the game, the Bobcats (18-10, 4-2) and Dragons (12-16, 2-2) fought to a stalemate for much of the first set, with MHS finishing on a 7-3 after an 18-18 tie to win 25-21.
Marshalltown struggled in the second set, falling behind early to Johnston 7-1 and again 9-3, but the Bobcats dug down and played some strong defense and smart offense to tie the set up at 10, then eventually roll on to another 25-21 set.
To close things out, the Bobcats jumped on the Dragons early, owning a four-point lead and extending it to as much as 10 before winning the third 25-16.
MHS head coach Chris Brees said he liked seeing his girls play in three different kinds of sets and handle a variety of situations in their final full regular season match.
“We had a very good game plan and we knew what they were going to do, and set one obviously showed they knew what we were going to do too, so that’s what made it a lot closer,” Brees said. “Set two they moved their lineup ahead three spots and we stayed where we were at. It took us a little bit longer to adjust, they put their bigger blockers on Regan (Mazour) and we weren’t getting her the ball as well as we needed to, but we found other matchups that we exposed when Molly Bach got to the front row. Then we went back to serving aggressively.”
In that second set specifically, when the Bobcats started off so slow Brees could have taken a timeout to calm things down, but he didn’t and let his girls get right on their own, leading to a big run for Marshalltown to swing the momentum.
Mazour said her coach’s faith in the girls to pull things out on their own gives the team great confidence in their ability.
“That showed that he has confidence in us and he knows that we can play through hard times,” Mazour said. “He knows that we can put the ball away when we need to, and we did.”
Brees said it never crossed his mind to call the timeout because of how much he knows the girls can turn thing around on their own.
“I have confidence in them, I really do,” he said. “It’s senior night, there are going to be a lot of different mentalities they are going through, a lot of different emotions, but I try to stay calm. I am a much calmer coach than when I first started coaching, I try to stay relaxed and just let them work their way out of it. I knew once we got to passing better we’d be fine, and I wanted to see them work out of it because we are focusing for regionals.”
On senior night, the seniors shined brightly for Marshalltown. Ciara Feldman was the top attacker with 11 kills, including the final kill of the match, and Mazour finished just behind her with 10. Bach also had four important kills that all came in pivotal moments for the Bobcats’ momentum.
Feldman said finishing things up as strong as they did on their home court was a great feeling.
“I just wanted to go out with a bang on our senior year, all our seniors have been working hard lately just to finish our season,” she said.
Six different girls finished with at least one kill in the matchup, showing Marshalltown’s propensity to share the ball offensively. Mazour, the team’s top statistical attacker, said when they get everyone more involved they have more success.
“When we get everyone involved it opens up the places that Ciara and I go to on the outside more and it makes the game just so much easier to play,” she said.
While there was some pop to the offense, the defense is what separated the Bobcats and Dragons in their matchup. Marshalltown had 55 total digs, with Mazour, Feldman and senior libero McKenna Major each finishing in the double digits in digs with 15, 14 and 13 respectively.
Quite a few of those digs came during a couple long rallies between the two teams, one of which happened during the Bobcats’ comeback bid in the second inning. Brees said his girls handle the longer rallies better than other teams because they keep focused on the task at hand.
“I think we are really good at those rallies because we don’t panic, we just play. Other teams tend to panic on us, which is kind of nice to see sometimes,” he said. “We spend a majority of our time on bettering the ball drill, putting the ball in play, making them make the mistake. A team like this has some big, heavy arms but they also try to swing for the kill. We are smart and when the net’s open we put it away, but if not we keep the ball in play and that’s something we focus on over and over.”
There is just one more weekend tournament left in the season, as the Bobcats already have their postseason laid out and know they will be facing Ames in less than two weeks.
Brees said with that knowledge, he wants to use this final weekend to work on some strategies his girls can use against the Little Cyclones.
“We are going to do things a lot like we are playing Ames in all of those matches, we have Clinton in the opening match and they are a lot like Ames, they have a big middle and they play the ball like Ames,” he said. “My thing is I want us to go out and play with some intention and some intensity because we can’t go in flat.”
Of course if the Bobcats get past Ames in the first round, likely waiting for them will be Class 5A No. 1 Cedar Falls. Luckily, Marshalltown plays Class 2A No. 1 Dike-New Hartford this weekend, a team that has split four games with the Tigers, and Mazour said if they can compete with Wolverines they have a chance against Cedar Falls.
“We know we have Cedar Falls coming up, hopefully, and these teams are very comparable,” she said. “We have Dike-New Hartford in our pool this weekend, and they split with Cedar Falls so we know that if we can play with Dike we can play with Cedar Falls and that’s what we need to do.”