Out of reach
Top-ranked Cedar Falls too tall of an order for Marshalltown in regional final
CEDAR FALLS — The Marshalltown volleyball team’s season came to an end on Monday night after being swept by Cedar Falls in the Class 5A Region 6 final.
The top-ranked Tigers won the match 25-9, 25-19, 25-7.
Cedar Falls (41-1) opened the match by scoring the first 14 consecutive points that came to an end on a service error.
“We came out Game 1 very shell-shocked and I could almost predict to you that was going to happen,” Marshalltown head coach Chris Brees said. “We had been talking about it all week but it just didn’t seem like it clicked with us until we were across the net from them. They are in a league of their own.”
The Bobcats managed to find some life after getting on the scoreboard and put together a 6-1 run to cut the deficit down to 16-7. Marshalltown failed to rally in Set 1 but the positive momentum carried over into Set 2.
The biggest difference in the match for Marshalltown was Cedar Falls 6-foot-6 middle hitter and University of Dayton commit Alayna Yates. The Bobcats struggled on both offense and defense due to Yates’ size as she accumulated nine kills and four blocks. However, Marshalltown found most of its success when Yates rotated off the court.
“There wasn’t much that we were going to do blocking-wise except take out a zone and try to dig around [Yates],” Brees said. “Really, I thought our [defensive specialists] and liberos dug a lot of balls. When you are hitting straight down [it becomes a] 3-foot line not a 10-foot line, it’s almost impossible to hit. I mean when you are 6-6 and then the blocker against [Yates] is 5-10, she’s reaching above 8 feet. It’s almost impossible to get a touch on the block. When we did get touches, I felt like we were dug so much in waiting for the hard hit that it was hard to run through that. We prepared. We wanted to serve aggressive. We wanted to just try and play some defense and dig the ball.”
The Bobcats totaled 34 digs with Grace Fisher and Brittany Sichra both leading the team with nine digs each.
“Every time [Yates] rotated out, we kept up with them. It’s just because that changes the dynamics of the game. We have Gabby Himes hitting on the outside, she is left-handed, and her natural swing is back to the right side of the court. She couldn’t do that when [Yates] was in there because [Yates] took out that part of the court. When [Yates] was out, I felt like we stayed with them and stayed in the match.”
Marshalltown held its only lead of the night in Set 2 as the Bobcats got ahead 9-6. But Cedar Falls responded with a 9-0 run to retake the lead 15-9. Marshalltown put together two small 3-1 runs in the set but Cedar Falls prevailed.
“Energy stepped up [in Set 2],” Brees said. “We served them more aggressive. We got them out of system so they had some hitting errors. We got Gabby [Himes] really involved. I think she had a fabulous night for us. We also tried to speed up the offense a little bit and move the ball around a little bit more instead of pushing it high outside.”
Of Marshalltown’s 16 total kills, Himes had a team-leading seven kills.
The Bobcats stayed competitive with Cedar Falls at the start of Set 3 as the two teams were tied at 3-3. But the Tigers broke away with a 5-0 run and closed the set out with a 9-0 run to seal their fifth consecutive trip to state.
Despite the loss, the Bobcats’ 17-15 record was a notable feat in itself. For the first half of the season, Marshalltown was below .500 after starting the season 1-6.
“We started holding each other a little more accountable,” Brees said. “I think the seniors were starting to realize that this is it. Its either do or die. We had some nights off where we could just focus on some teams instead of playing a lot of back-to-back [days] but I think it just more of our tenacity. We had some people, even after injuries, step up.”
The Bobcats got back ahead in the win column, after going 10-4 in the month of October and by putting together a seven-game win streak.
“I thought that we were going to be a different team at the beginning of the year just with the experience we have. But we played some tough opponents, it just didn’t go like we wanted to. I told the girls here at the end tonight that they shouldn’t hang their heads. We were below .500 almost the whole season. In the second half of the season, we won the Oskaloosa tournament, we beat [Cedar Falls] Jefferson, we were playing some really good ball.
“It’s just unfortunate that every other year that we have to play through Cedar Falls. I think that the way we were playing at this point if we had a different opponent across the net because there is a mental barrier not just physical when you know you have to play a state champion. I think that if there was someone else across the net that we might have had a different outcome.”