Trojans ousted in championship semifinals of home tournament
BCLUW wins consolation bracket for 2nd-straight year
STATE CENTER — For a second consecutive year, the West Marshall volleyball team reached the championship bracket of its home volleyball tournament.
But also for a second-straight year, the Trojans’ day came to an end in the semifinals.
After starting 2-0 against Ogden (21-7, 21-10) and Davis County (21-17, 23-21), West Marshall had two-straight matches against Class 3A No. 5 Waterloo Columbus and 2A No. 1 Grundy Center.
First up was the Sailors, who the Trojans needed to beat to win Pool 1 and face the runner-up of Pool 2 in the championship semifinals. They lost the first set, 21-12, but set two was much closer, though they eventually fell in that one, 24-22.
West Marshall drew the NICL West Division rival Spartans for the championship round and again kept it close with a highly-ranked foe, but again fell in straight sets, 25-15, 25-12.
New Trojan head coach Erik Eckhardt said he was proud of how his girls played even in the losses.
“When you are playing teams like Grundy it’s really hard to get into your system when they are doing so many things,” he said. “Especially with how many new faces we have, not having seen that type of volleyball come at them just yet.”
West Marshall is still replacing quite a bit of senior leadership that left the team due to graduation, including assists-leader Grace Porter, kills specialist Lexi Keigan and glue-girl Emma Meyer. Because of all the holes to fill, Eckhardt said he and the players are still trying to figure out how to work best together, and Saturday’s four games helped that process along.
“We learned a lot about ourselves, where we stand, what we need to work on, so that was good,” he said. “We actually played really well to start, which was good to see. We are just learning here early in the year what we need to work on.”
Last season’s offensive leader Catherine Sjoblom was again effective on the day, finishing with 22 total kills in four games as well as 25 digs and four aces on a 22-for-28 serving clip. Hana Hohnstein, who split time with Porter as the main setter last season, had 52 assists on the day along with 25 digs and seven aces on 29-for-36 serving.
Eckhardt said last season’s known commodities were effective, but there are a few girls who he thinks have stepped up their game so far in this young season.
“Morgan Cripps is pursuing the ball really well and putting her body on the line. Hitting the floor, chasing balls down, that’s a big positive to see,” he said. “Also Addie Moore, she’s played for us for four years and not been a huge contributor in the offense, but this year she’s being a lot more aggressive on the ball.”
Cripps finished with 27 digs and an 18-for-18 serving mark, while Moore had 15 kills and five blocks on the day.
Grundy Center would go on to beat Waterloo Columbus in the championship match, 25-16, 20-25, 15-9, to win the tournament for the second-straight year, and head coach Lori Willis said she is satisfied with where her girls are mentally to start the year.
“What I absolutely love that they are doig is when I get on them a little hard they are actually kind of defending their teammates,” Willis said. “They are doing it very respectfully, which is awesome. When I come down on them a little hard there’s been a couple players who have softened it up a little bit, so that’s really good. That’s great team chemistry.”
While one NICL West team won the championship bracket for the second-straight year, another did the same on the consolation side.
BCLUW started the day off strong in pool play with a straight set victory over PCM, 21-8, 21-14, but then it lost the next two matches to Grundy Center (21-10, 21-13) and Van Meter (13-21, 21-10, 20-18) to wind up in the consolation bracket.
“We played really well first match of the day, which was nice to see,” Comet head coach Katie Garber said. “You always wonder if they are going to show up first thing in the morning but they did, we played really well against PCM first thing this morning and got us off to a good start.
“Going up against Grundy in the second round is a tough matchup for us but I was pleased that we did better in game two against Grundy than we did in game one,” Garber continued. “Against Van Meter that was a bit disappointing, we won the first game very easily and then just floated around in game two. Should have finished it out there but didn’t, and in game three anything can happen. We just kind of went back and forth and of course it was an exciting finish that just didn’t go our way, but we just really shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place.”
Once in the consolation bracket, BCLUW faced off with Ogden in the semifinals and swept the bulldogs aside in straight sets, 25-10, 25-19. It was a similar story in the consolation final against Davis County, as the Comets jumped out with an easy 25-13 win in the first set but had to grind their way to a 25-19 victory in set two for their second-straight consolation bracket win in the West Marshall Tournament.
“We definitely had the most offense of the teams in the consolation bracket, so as long as we were passing well and could use that offense we were in pretty good shape,” Garber said. “Struggled a little bit there at the end by going point-for-point with them instead of stringing some points together, but we put a run together and finished on a positive note.”
Easton Swanson, the returning kill leader for the Comets, looked like she was in midseason form on the first weekend of the year. She had 29 kills and was 49-for-49 serving with nine aces in five games, including a 10-kill match in the consolation final against Davis County.
It wasn’t just Swanson getting it done though, as Madison Ubben had 23 kills on the day and Jade Hammers followed with 15.
“We don’t have to just go to Easton, obviously it’s fun when we can go to her and she can just put it down,” Garber said of the team’s newfound offensive balance. “She’s strong and can really put that ball down, but so can Jade. She is much, much improved from last year, she’s been a big surprise for us this year, and it’s been fun to go to her. She’s starting to get her feet under her and get her confidence to go up and see her do what we see all the time in practice.
“Madison is just super athletic and it’s fun to see her having that big presence at the net, I feel like she’s going to do nothing but get better and better.”
Swanson’s impressive serving numbers were also reflected across the board, with Cate Nason going 39-for-41 in service with two aces and Lizzie Garber and Taryn Gall each chipping in six aces of their own.
Garber said Nason’s serving in particular is an asset to her team because of her precision.
“She has a really strange serve and she can put it wherever I tell her to put it, she’s really good at that,” Garber said. “She takes a lot of pride in her serving and knows that’s a way we can keep other teams from getting into their offense. Really I thought all our girls were hitting spots all day long today.”
West Marshall Tournament
At State Center
W. Marshall def. Ogden, 21-7, 21-10
W. Columbus def. Davis Co, 21-9, 21-16
W. Columbus def. W. Marshall, 21-12, 24-22
Davis Co def. Ogden, 21-17, 22-20
W. Marshall def. Davis County, 21-17, 23-21
W. Columbus def. Ogden 21-13, 21-19
BCLUW def. PCM, 21-8, 21-14
Grundy C. def. Van Meter, 21-4, 21-8
Grundy C. def. BCLUW, 21-10, 21-13
Van Meter def. PCM, 21-14, 15-21, 15-13
Van Meter def. BCLUW, 13-21, 21-10, 20-18
Grundy C. def. PCM, 21-2, 21-4
Davis Co def. PCM, 25-19, 25-19
BCLUW def. Ogden, 25-10, 25-19
BCLUW def. Davis Co, 25-13, 25-19
W. Columbus def. Van Meter, 25-15, 25-19
Grundy C. def. W. Marshall, 25-15, 25-12
Grundy C. def. W. Columbus, 25-16, 20-25, 15-9