Bobcats’ youth served by J-Hawks

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON - Marshalltown freshman Sophie Younkin (23) hits the ball towards the block by Urbandale’s Jayden Walter (16) during the J-Hawks’ sweep of the Bobcats in the Roundhouse on Tuesday.

Things couldn’t have started much better for the Marshalltown volleyball team in its home match against Urbandale on Tuesday night.

The Roundhouse was rocking with fans there to cheer on the Bobcats, and early on in the first set the team responded to the cheers by taking a 10-5 lead over the Class 5A No. 10 J-Hawks.

Urbandale never seemed too worried, however, and eventually it chipped away at that lead. Before the MHS fans and players could blink, the first set was tied at 10-10, and eventually the J-Hawks would take the set, 25-18.

That would be the closest game of the match between the two, as Urbandale won the next two sets by the same score, 25-15, 25-15, and the match sweep of the Bobcats.

Marshalltown head coach Chris Brees said what did his girls in wasn’t necessarily a lack of talent on the court, but a lack of leadership.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON - Marshalltown senior Yatnia Hernandez, right, goes up for a block on Urbandale’s Brooke Dannenfeldt (11) during the J-Hawks’ sweep of the Bobcats in the Roundhouse on Tuesday.

“It’s leadership not just vocally, but by body language, by going after it,” Brees said after his team’s fourth-straight loss. “It’s very dissatisfying as a coach when I have to find the energy for the team, and we are letting one or two points dictate the match instead of just letting it go. That’s maturity but a lot of it is somebody also just has to step up and do it.”

Erica Johnson led the Bobcats (1-4) in kills with nine on 31-of-33 hitting, while Autumn Finch had seven kills on 14-for-20 hitting and Yatnia Hernandez finished with six kills on a 15-for-19 line.

Madi Finch led the way with 23 assists, while Alyvia Chadderdon had 18 digs, followed by Johnson with 15 and Madi Finch with 11.

All of those statistics are manageable enough, but where Brees thought the girls struggled was in service.

“Our serve-receive was wonderful, we passed the ball very well, we were in system, we’d get a big kill and then we’d turn around and serve it out of bounds,” Brees said. “We weren’t hitting the zones that were requesting, and that’s the biggest difference in the match for me. We made their libero look like a first-team All American, and that’s because we were serving it right to her.”

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

Brees said the biggest difference between this team and others in the past isn’t the names on the court, but what the girls are doing when plays are being called.

“That’s kind of the difference of where we are at right now, executing gameplan,” he said. “Last year we did it to a T, this year our immaturity is showing where we get too scared and we don’t think when we are up there with our arms.”

That can be seen just by the amount of players Brees has rotated through the lineup in the early going. Nearly the entire 16-person roster got a bit of playing time on Tuesday night, and Brees said that will continue until a lineup asserts themselves.

“For me it’s somebody has to show me, show me you should stay out there,” he said. “We did move some things around, we moved Kyra Feldman to the right back and Mayah Carson to the left back. I felt that continuity in our passing and defense showed, but our front row didn’t respond. When we have 11 hitting errors in game one, and the majority of those are coming from the outside, that’s where we have to figure some things out.”

The road doesn’t get much easier either, as Marshalltown heads to play in Southeast Polk Invitational on Saturday in a pool with 5A No. 3 West Des Moines Valley and No. 4 Cedar Rapids Jefferson.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

“We have to mature, they have to decide what they want, they have to decide to stop the slope,” Brees said of how the girls turn things around. “It’s not about talent, I honestly feel like compared to last year’s team we have more talent and depth this year, we just need to have someone step up and say this isn’t going to happen. You can’t get used to losing, you have to find a way to be competitive.”