Marshalltown volleyball coach Terri Westendorf had a chance to see Ankeny Centennial play in the preseason and her opinion of the Jaguars then was what the fans in the stands got to see Tuesday as the Bobcats faced the newest high school in Ankeny for the first time.
And led by one of the state's best players in Jaali Winters, the Jaguars dominated play at the net, rarely gave the Bobcats an open space to attack, and earned the 25-10, 25-21, 25-11 sweep at the Roundhouse.
"We knew Ankeny Centennial was going to be good," Westendorf said. "We had our chances in that second game to get one, but they have a lot more experience than we do and they showed it in that game."
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Marshalltown senior Emily Rebik tries to score a point for her squad during the Bobcats’ three-game loss to Ankeny Centennial on Tuesday night at the Roundhouse. Rebik had four kills and two blocks for MHS.
Winters finished with 14 kills and three blocks in the Jaguar win, while Olivia Cole came off the bench to contribute seven kills. Ankeny Centennial improved to 8-3 after the non-conference win.
The Jaguars have now won four of their last five matches, while Marshalltown dropped to 3-5 overall. The Bobcats have split their last six.
"I feel like we are getting better every day," Westendorf said. "We served much better today and our serve receive was better. We just didn't hit the ball consistently enough to win tonight. We need to continue to work hard. That is all we are asking of them."
The Bobcats hung tough in the opener.
Senior captain Emily Rebik's kill and service ace on back-to-back points trimmed the Jaguars' lead to 5-4. Centennial pushed the lead to 10-5 and then four straight MHS errors made it 13-6. The longest Jaguar run was five straight and that spurt improved the advantage to 22-9.
Winters ended the run with a kill and then put the game away with her fourth kill of the stanza.
"The problem was in the first and last games, we got blocked a few times at the net and then were timid on the rest of our attacks," Westendorf said. "We need to find that fine line between hitting hard enough to not get blocked but not too hard to where it goes out of bounds."
Game two was easily the most competitive set of the night.
The Bobcats jumped out to a 4-0 lead thanks to back-to-back aces by Rachel Whaley. A Leiah Paustian kill kept Marshalltown in front by four, but Centennial quickly chipped away at its deficit.
The Jaguars tied it at 7-all and 8-all thanks to kills by Cole. They eventually led 11-8 before Marshalltown fought back to even the game at 13-all after a kill by Sam Hughes. It also was tied at 14, 15, 19 and 20, but the Jaguars scored five of the final six points to secure a 2-0 lead in the match. The only point scored by Marshalltown during that final stretch came on a service error by Centennial.
"The kids didn't get down on themselves," Westendorf said. "They fought hard until the end. They knew this was going to be a tough match. But they didn't show it on the court."
The Jaguars once again controlled the net in the final game. It remained close in the early stages thanks to a pair of Whaley kills and an ace by Paustian. But three straight points by the Jaguars gave them a 13-8 lead.
The Bobcats were then stuck on 9 for multiple points as the Jaguars' advantage grew to 17-9. Centennial scored eight of the next 10 points to close out the sweep. That run included a pair of kills from Winters, two kills and a block from Becka Bennien and three straight points from Cole.
"They have two of the best players in the state on their team," Westendorf said of Centennial. "I think Jaali Winters is the best player in the state."
Whaley led the Bobcats with five kills, four digs and three aces. She also was 12-for-12 in serves. Rebik added four kills and two blocks, while Sharissa Stansberry recorded a team-high six digs. Lindsey Ricken finished with seven assists, three digs and was 8-for-8 in serves and Hughes tallied three kills off the bench.
The Bobcats were 41-of-43 in serving for the match and they had four aces.
The match was pushed back to an 8 p.m. start and did not actually begin until 8:10 p.m. ... The Bobcats next play Saturday in the Iowa City West Invite at 9 a.m. Marshalltown's next home match will be 7:30 p.m. Tuesday against Des Moines Hoover at the Roundhouse. "It will be another tough day," Westendorf said about the Iowa City West tournament. "That is the problem. We don't get a break. We are going to play hard teams. We have to get used to it and just try to get better every day, and I think they are doing that." ... Winters was a part of Ankeny High School's squad that reached the Class 5A semifinals last season, earning a spot on the all-tournament team. She also earned Class 5A second-team all-state recognition last year as a sophomore and Class 4A second-team all-state honors as a freshman.