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Tigers take Southwestern the distance in defeat

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - MCC sophomore Bojana Stekovic (10) goes for the attack against Southwestern's Vernae Ramoth during Sunday's volleyball match at the Student Activity Center. Stekovic led the Tigers with nine kills.

The Marshalltown Community College volleyball team is finally on the other side of adversity, and the Tigers nearly took full advantage of their first real opportunity.

The MCC netters traded sets with Southwestern CC on Sunday at the Student Activity Center, eventually succumbing to the Spartans in a five-game thriller, 25-18, 14-25, 25-22, 15-25, 15-10, in Iowa Community College Athletic Conference play.

The Tigers (0-3, 0-2) had six of their first seven matches either canceled or postponed because of visa issues or COVID-19 protocols, but now its resultant roster has started making strides in the right direction.

MCC head coach Chris Brees said the journey began with plenty of turbulence, but on Sunday he finally got to worry about more than just his team’s internal struggles.

“I would say we handled it poorly to begin with,” Brees said of this strange season, “up until Friday. We just had a ‘come to Tigers’ meeting, we had to embrace and feel what was going on and we weren’t. People were being passive, people were being aggressive, people weren’t good teammates and we addressed it on Friday.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

“I feel we responed pretty well today, we didn’t have as many moments of giving up.”

Southwestern (2-10, 2-10) used a 14-1 run to take command in a first set that Brees claims was his squad’s for the taking. MCC countered with a second set triumph that the Tigers closed with the last six points in a convincing win.

Southwestern gained the upper hand in the third set behind a 9-0 run, but MCC countered with an 11-1 surge that tied the score at 19-all. The Spartans had just enough to finish off the set, but Marshalltown again had the answer.

In the fourth set, the Tigers pulled in front for a 19-12 lead that sophomore middle hitter/setter Andjela Bobic put away. Bobic had three blocks, two kills and a service ace to account for MCC’s final six points to force a deciding fifth set.

The visiting Spartans scored the first two points and led 5-1 before Brees took a timeout. It quelled Southwestern’s momentum and led to five-straight SWCC errors and a 6-5 Tiger advantage.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

Having played nine more matches and with a full roster, Southwestern simply had more gas left in its tank than MCC’s six-player lineup. Spartans outside hitter Florence Omodayo had four kills in the team’s closing 5-1 surge for the victory.

Brees isn’t worried about the win-loss column in this pandemic-plagued season, and liked the way his team bounced back from a bumpy beginning to compete in its first five-setter.

“This is the first time we’ve been allowed to coach a match,” he said. “The first two games we didn’t coach at all, we were just responding to our headaches on our side. It was just chaotic.”

The Tigers capitalized on the enhanced Xs and Os that Brees and his staff threw at them in Sunday’s home contest but couldn’t close it out at the end.

“We should have won that match, we should have won Thursday night’s match (against Iowa Lakes),” Brees said. “The thing is we hemorrhage points when we don’t need to. We don’t have a true setter. We have four middle hitters playing back row that have never played back row, and one was playing setter for half a rotation.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

“We’re problem-solving. We’re Martha Stewart-ing the ball — we’re getting crafty out there — but they’re trying it and that’s all you can ask. We’ve got to stop dwelling on that we only have six players out there right now.”

Bobic finished with team-highs of seven blocks, seven digs and 14-for-15 serving with four aces. She also had four kills and six assists. Bojana Stekovic led the Tigers with nine kills, and Tasia Pohle and Jelena Vucic each finished with five kills. Natalia Maciejewska posted 16 assists, seven digs and three kills. Yatnia Hernandez was 11-for-13 serving with an ace.

Omodayo led Southwestern with 16 kills. Deniz Tuncer finished with six kills, Brooke Halterman had five kills and four blocks, and Emma Hanson added four kills for the Spartans.

MCC goes on the road Tuesday with a match at Indian Hills before hosting back-to-back contests Thursday against Ellsworth and Sunday with Iowa Western.

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