’Cats content with consolation crown

Marshalltown coach Terri Westendorf doesn’t mind taking the long road.

Even if that means navigating a few more bumps along the way.

Bouncing back from a pair of defeats against the eventual championship and runner-up squads, the Bobcat volleyball team rallied with a pair of victories to clinch the consolation bracket at the Pat Apgar Invitational Saturday inside the Roundhouse.

Class 4A No. 7 ranked Waverly-Shell Rock wrapped up the championship with a 25-15, 20-25, 15-4 triumph over No. 8 Indianola.

Seeing those two teams advance from the Blue pool to vie for the title was confirmation that Westendorf had her team in the right bracket.

“We don’t ever want to put ourselves in the easy bracket. We want to play hard and challenge ourselves every time,” Westendorf said. “You only get better when you play better competition.”

After opening the invite with a 21-19, 21-14 victory over South Hardin, the Bobcats (3-4) fell to the Go-Hawks 21-13, 21-8 and were swept by Indianola 21-15, 21-15. Marshalltown regrouped in the consolation round with a 25-13, 25-17 win over Ottumwa (0-4), which had defeated the Bobcats in the consolation final the past two years. MHS completed the day by defeating South Hardin for a second time, 25-19, 25-17, to wrap up fifth.

“The girls had a good start to the day and a good end to the day, but we had some things in the middle that we want to clean up,” said Westendorf, who mentioned serve receive, serving and defensive positioning as some areas to address.

“With defensive positioning, it’s not necessarily getting the ball up but getting where you need to be so you can.”

“We have a group of ladies that are really trying to get their feel for the varsity floor,” Westendorf said. “They did some pretty good things today and we just have to keep pushing forward.”

South Hardin (1-4) took its first steps forward in its 2013 campaign, as Saturday’s first meeting with the Bobcats marked the Tigers’ season debut. Also competing in the Blue pool, South Hardin dropped a 21-13, 21-10 setback to Indianola and a 21-11, 21-13 decision to Waverly-Shell Rock.

The Tigers trumped Iowa Falls-Alden (1-3) in their consolation opener, 25-23, 27-29, 15-9. Like Marshalltown, South Hardin had its own things to work on after Saturday, while also taking away some positives to build from.

“For our first time out, we played well at times this morning and again in the afternoon,” said South Hardin coach Karla Bronzynski, whose 10-member roster was tested by the heat and outside hitter Ellen Swartz playing through illness. “(Ellen) was very sick earlier today so that she even made it through the end of the day was a real credit to her.”

The Tigers had some early hiccups, including some hitting errors and not getting off the net consistently. Bronzynski also mentioned serving and the Tigers keeping their swings in front of their head as points of emphasis to work on.

“We missed a ton of serves this morning that we shouldn’t have, but this afternoon we did a much better job with that,” said Bronzynski. “We kept balls in play and defensively we did a much better job of reading hitters as the day went on.”

Marshalltown led South Hardin 14-3 in the first set of the consolation final, before the Tigers rallied. Consecutive kills from Swartz and Haley Lawrence along with some strong serving from Alaina Lake pulled South Hardin within 19-17.

Rachel Whaley and Leiah Paustian connected on back-to-back winners before a Tiger hitting error and a Kali Banks kill closed it out at 25-19.

South Hardin held an early 6-3 edge in the second set though a block by Paustian knotted it at 10. Marshalltown opened an 18-14 lead on another winner by Banks, before Lindsey Ricken’s pair of aces followed by a Tiger miscue sealed the win at 25-17.

For the day, Whaley led the Bobcats’ attack with 21 kills and 13 digs. Rebik added 14 kills and Ricken had a team-high 35 assists and tallied 12 digs. Ashley Harris paced MHS from the service line converting 36-of-38 attempts with three aces. Ricken was 26-for-27 on serve with three aces.

Morgan Finch chipped in a team-best 15 digs in just three matches and Paustian added 22 assists and 16 kills, while going 35-for-38 on serve with two aces. Molly Major connected on 19 of 20 serves with two aces.

“We need to work on keeping up our energy throughout the whole game,” said Whaley.

“When we pick it up, we play well.”

No South Hardin stats were available at press time.

The Go-Hawks topped Iowa City West (4-4), previously ranked No. 10 in Class 5A, 25-17, 25-13 in the championship semifinals. The Indians (5-2) beat Class 4A No. 4 Charles City 25-21, 25-20 in the other semi, handing the Comets (10-2) just their second loss of the year.

The Bobcats host Ankeny Centennial in Central Iowa Conference action Tuesday. South Hardin opens NICL West play against West Marshall Tuesday.