MHS swept in regular-season finale

Class 5A No. 10 Waukee takes three sets from Bobcats at Roundhouse

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON - Marshalltown freshman Hayden Oetker (24) jumps for a hit against Waukee defender Megan Severson (8) during the Bobcats’ three-set loss to the Warriors in the Roundhouse on Tuesday.

It was an age-old tale of David and Goliath on Tuesday when the Marshalltown volleyball team hosted Class 5A No. 10 Waukee in the Roundhouse for its final match of the regular season.

The Bobcats were outsized in every possible way against their foes from the CIML Iowa Conference, as the Warriors boast five players 6-foot or over, compared to just one such player for MHS.

Each of the first two sets saw Waukee jump out to big leads, but the Bobcats fought back before dropping both, then in the third the Warriors put the pedal to the metal while Marshalltown ran out of gas and fell in three sets, 25-17, 25-22, 25-8.

Bobcat head coach Chris Brees said ultimately Waukee’s size and skill was too much for his girls to handle.

“They are all above 6-foot and we have one girl who’s 6-2, and she’s a freshman. That’s the key, it’s about experience, but even in that first game I am happy with that. I said to the team, ‘I want us to work to 15,’ and that’s a success for us because of what they are and who they are,” Brees said. “In the second game we really challenged them on the serve, we dug a lot of balls, our serve receive was right there, we got them out of system and I was really happy with where we were. I was worried about game three because they flexed their muscles and showed why they are ranked in the top 10 and we just didn’t have an answer for their outside.”

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON - Marshalltown junior Erica Johnson (6) reaches for a hit against Waukee defender Kelsey Plumb (11) during the Bobcats’ three-set loss to the Warriors in the Roundhouse on Tuesday.

Marshalltown (12-16, 1-4) showed great resilience to make the second set as close as it was. After trading points through the early going, Waukee (23-12, 4-1) went on an 8-1 run to turn a 6-6 tie into a 14-7 lead.

Brees took a timeout to calm his girls down, and after the break the Bobcats stormed back on a 7-1 run of their own, eventually tying the set back up at 18-18.

“We were trying to make swings that were compensating by like five or six feet,” Brees said of his message to the girls in the timeout. “When you are going up against blockers that big it’s about inches, you need to swing under the middle’s armpit and it’s a two-inch swing in difference, not turning your whole body and trying to rope it down the line. I told them to not focus on swinging straight at zone six, staying away from that big middle, challenging the outside and then serve aggressive.”

Junior Mayah Carson was a major part of that 7-1 run in the second set, as she had some well-placed serves that kept the Warriors guessing.

“Mayah was hot in game two and she picked up a lot of digs off the block,” Brees said. “I think they didn’t think the ball was coming back up but she dug up a lot of things and we were putting the ball back at them, which tends to be my style as a coach. Ever since I’ve been here we’ve been undersized, so we just have to play defense, put the ball back and be aggressive.”

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

Carson finished the night 9-for-10 in service and with four digs, while Madi Finch was 8-for-8 in service and Alyvia Chadderdon and Erica Johnson each went 7-for-7.

Finch and senior Marina Rosalez each had eight digs to lead the way, followed by Chadderdon with six, though Brees said every one of Chadderdon’s digs were huge considering they saved some great hits by Warriors’ offensive juggernaut Haley Bush.

“I thought Alyvia Chadderdon probably had one of her best matches. She was going against an [NCAA Division-1] outside hitter and getting that ball up, and that’s what we know she can do,” Brees said. “When we are playing those sloppy teams it’s hard to dig because the ball’s not going where it’s supposed to, but this one you get your platform there, get set and freeze it to target.”

Bush was the top hitter for Waukee with 15 kills, followed by Layanna Green with eight, Kate Nelson with seven and Megan Severson with six.

Johnson led the Bobcats with eight kills on 25-of-29 hitting, while freshman Autumn Finch had five kills on a 10-for-11 line and fellow freshman Hayden Oetker went 12-for-16 with four kills.

Last Tuesday Marshalltown lost at home to Mason City in four sets, the first time the Bobcats had lost to the Mohawks in more than a decade and a half. Since that loss the team has gone 4-3 with the losses coming to highly-ranked foes, and Brees said the girls have righted the ship heading into regionals.

“Every match is a learning opportunity. We learned from Mason City, I think we challenged some kids on what they want from the rest of the season,” Brees said.

While this was the last home match of the regular season for MHS, the Bobcats will have one more home showing against Cedar Rapids Washington next Wednesday in the Roundhouse as part of the Class 5A Region 5 bracket. If Marshalltown can get past the Warriors it would move on to face No. 6 Ankeny in the regional semifinals, and Brees said his girls have a fighting chance to make the state tournament despite having a losing record.

“That opportunity is there, that carrot is in front of us, how do we want to end it?” he said. “You can be a losing record team and still make it to state, it all comes down to one night at a time and I feel we are pretty darn good on weeknights when we can focus on teams, instead of those weekends where we have to play 20 teams and figure out what we are going to do against each of them.”

Marshalltown closes the regular season with a tournament

Saturday at Johnston starting at 8:30 a.m.