On to the next one
West Marshall sweeps PCM in regional quarterfinal; No. 12 Iowa Falls-Alden awaits
STATE CENTER — Things couldn’t have gone much better for the West Marshall volleyball team on Wednesday in its opening match of the Class 3A Region 6 tournament against PCM.
The Trojans dominated early on in the first set against the Mustangs on the way to a quarterfinal sweep, winning in three sets, 25-7, 25-14, 25-12.
Following the playoff win on their home court, West Marshall junior Catherine Sjoblom said what helped her squad prevail over PCM was a great connection the girls possess.
“We had our ups and downs but altogether our team played really well and we pulled it back together and we had a lot of team chemistry to keep us going,” she said.
After winning the first set in such a strong fashion, the Mustangs pushed the Trojans a bit in the second set, as the teams battled to a 10-10 tied midway through the frame.
West Marshall went on a 15-4 run to close out the set, however, and in the third when the score was tied at 8-all, the Trojans went on an 11-0 run to essentially cement the win.
Head coach Denise Coberley could have taken an early timeout to get her girls calmed down in either of those close situations, but she chose to let it ride and let her girls work out the kinks on their own, which they clearly were able to do.
“I am not a fan of timeouts, yeah sometimes they work but sometimes they work against you because the other team knows they’ve got you,” Coberely said. “Sometimes if you let the girls work it out, they know I have confidence in them and they are going to work themselves out of it. They don’t need me to step in to stop that, and that comes from our seniors, that’s our senior leadership.”
Another huge factor in both long runs for the Trojans, Coberley said, was some great work in service from her girls. Senior Lexi Keigan and sophomore Hana Hohnstein each had four aces in the match, while Sjoblom and senior Ashlyn Craven both had three. Coberley said the work those girls put in to their serves can go unnoticed at times, but it is huge for the team’s ability to win.
“People underestimate the power of a good serve, we had some really good servers tonight,” Coberley said. “Hana had some smokers going over but Catherine was placing the ball, Ashlyn was placing the ball, Lexi was placing it, and they were putting it in a place where it was difficult for them to get to. When you do that, that’s one of the most frustrating things. I know as a team, when we aren’t serve-receiving well we get frustrated because you can’t get the ball to your hitters, you can’t even get the ball to your setters.”
The frustration never mounted for West Marshall on the serve-receive end, as the girls did a great job all night handling whatever PCM through at them and setting up their offense. Keigan finished the match as the offensive leader for the Trojans with 13 kills, while Sjoblom was just behind with 11.
Senior setter Grace Porter said, when both Keigan and Sjoblom are rolling like they were on Tuesday night, it’s exciting to just get them the ball.
“They are both really doing good and they are pretty much carrying us,” she said. “We can always count on them to get it done. Just go to Lexi and Catherine, it’s exciting.”
Of course those hitters wouldn’t be able to do anything if not for the work of their setters, and both Porter and Hohnstein had a good night running the offense, finishing with 14 and 15 assists respectively.
Coberley said having the rare option of running two setters on the court actually sets her offense apart from those of other teams competing at the same level.
“They are two very different kinds of setters, Hana is more about quick and Grace is really good about putting it right wherever that hitter needs it to go,” Coberley said. “We have kind of rotated our hitters so we have that chemistry, the chemistry between the hitters and setters is really key. It completely changes the game because Grace’s setting is a little bit different speed, a different look, and that makes it hard for teams to say ‘this is how we are going to stop it’ because that might work on one rotation but it won’t work on the next one.”
Chemistry is something this team has in spades, as anyone who has watched West Marshall volleyball this season can attest. When good things happen, the team is quick to celebrate and when a bad play eventually take place, they are quick to pick up their teammates.
Keigan, who led in kills on her final game played on her home court, said having familiarity with this group over the past few years is what develops that chemistry.
“We just play really well together, we’ve been playing together since the beginning of last year,” she said. “We get along and we know what our weaknesses are and our strengths and we know who to go to, so I think that’s what helped us.”
Now West Marshall has a week off to prepare for its next opponent, as the Trojans head north to take on No. 12 Iowa Falls-Alden in the regional semifinals. Sjoblom said what the girls need to focus on during the next week is putting all of the game plan together and letting every piece of the puzzle fit together nicely.
“Our goal the whole week has been working on getting us to state, so we we’ve been working on everything and I think our main thing we need to work on is talking and seeing where all of the hitters are and seeing where we need to set our blocks,” she said. “If we get all that we have good hitters, we have good setters, we have good passers, we just need to put it all together.”
This current regional draw is better than the last few draws for the Trojans, as the highest ranked team they would face before reaching state is No. 4 Mount Vernon in the regional finals. Porter said, given the favorable draw, she would like nothing more than to cap off her senior season with a trip to the state tournament.
“It’s exciting because right now we have a good chance of getting further than we have in the past,” she said. “My freshman year we didn’t get very far and then we kind of got ranked teams in the past, so now it’s just exciting to have a chance to get pretty far.”
To reach that ultimate goal, the girls will have to fight like their lives depend on it and win some scrappy, tight battles. Coberley said that will be a major focus in practice over the next week as they prepare for the Cadets, making sure her girls are ready to be in a dog fight.
“We’ve had a couple of easier games lately that haven’t gone to five, and we have to know going into these next levels that they are going to be grinders,” Coberley said. “Making sure we are in condition, they already have a bleacher run planned for tomorrow so they are ready to go, and making sure we stay focused on the things that we do. We want to be able to make adjustments for whoever we are going to play, but we also want to be the team that other teams have to adjust to so we need to make sure we are doing the things that we do well and keeping doing them really well.”
The game between IFA and West Marshall will tip off with first serve at 7 p.m. next Tuesday in Iowa Falls.