Marshalltown volleyball starts life after Mazour

Madi Finch and Erica Johnson

It’s one thing to replace a top offensive player and leader from a previous season.

It’s another thing entirely to make up for the production of a girl who had 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in her career, all while leading her team in kills for the last three seasons.

That’s where the Marshalltown volleyball team finds itself now heading into the season for the first time in four years without Regan Mazour as an outside hitter.

Mazour was arguably one of the best players in the entire state last season, and Bobcat head coach Chris Brees said there is no easy solution for making up for her production.

“Regan led the team for three years straight in kills, so those are big shoes to fill,” he said. “I know we are not going to fill them right away but we are looking at spreading that offense around a little more.”

Even last season MHS was able to spread the love around, not just relying on Mazour for the offense but using other talented arms in the lineup. The problem is, the recipients of that spread-out offense were players like Ciara Feldman, Molly Bach and Emily Hass, who were all also lost to graduation.

Brees said the next girl to step into the lead-hitter role already has a good amount of experience, albeit in a different position.

“Erica Johnson will have to move outside and adapt to getting a lot more balls there, but she played that all club season so she’s very versed and understands that position,” he said. “She is probably our best defensive player so having her on the floor the whole time will help.”

Other than girls who have been around the program, Brees said there is a newcomer that will turn some heads, particularly because of her tall stature at such a young age.

“We are looking at Autumn Finch, a freshman, in the middle. Hopefully that will offer us some firepower in the middle that we haven’t had,” he said. “We had it late last year with Molly Bach, so we are hoping to continue developing that middle position and get some swings out of there.”

Finch is already easily the tallest member of the team, listed at 6-foot-1 and two inches taller than the next-tallest bobcat.

Other than those two, Brees said another stalwart for the program will be senior Alyvia Chadderdon, who will be taking over the libero role from another graduated player in McKenna Major.

“Alyvia Chadderdon has kind of lived behind people a little bit in the volleyball world, so I think this has been a great opportunity for her to step up and show some of that senior leadership,” he said. “It’s not even necessarily we are looking to those people who are our best players on the team, but who also lead by example off the court and are just generally good people.”

With so much turnover from a year ago, when the Bobcats went 22-13 and lost in the regional finals to Cedar Falls, Brees said it will be a process getting his team on the right path in 2018.

“Obviously we are going to walk into gyms and be out-talented in a lot of those gyms, but are we going to be playing teams that have more heart than us, have more volleyball IQ than us? Those are things I would like us to bring to the table and start focusing on more,” he said.

Marshalltown will finally get a chance to take on another team today, as it will host Des Moines Hoover for a match starting at 7:30 p.m.

“Having all last week off and last weekend made it even more where we are ready to get in the gym,” Brees said. “It doesn’t really matter who it is at this point, just getting on the court against somebody else who’s not in a Bobcat jersey will be nice.”

In this first game against the Huskies, Brees said he’s not looking for his girls to come out firing away, but for them to do what they’ve worked on in practice and show some growth.

“I am looking for consistency. We have practiced and preached ball control, ball control, ball control, and we’ve cut down on the hitting errors,” he said. “That’s something that we are going to struggle with at the beginning, everybody wants that big kill and I am more about putting the other team out of their system.”

Marshalltown opens the season at home against Des Moines Hoover today, starting at 7:30 p.m. at the Roundhouse.