Fort Dodge can’t catch No. 15 Bobcats

The Fort Dodge volleyball team continued to be its own worst enemy at the most inopportune times here Tuesday against 15th-ranked (Class 5A) Marshalltown.

The Dodgers struggled their way through stretches of unforced errors and communication breakdowns in a four-game setback at the FDSH gym. Scores were 25-14, 25-23, 19-25 and 25-18 in favor of the Bobcats.

Head coach Tonia Burrell sees flashes of potential in her Dodgers (5-9 overall), who had a spirited rally in game two and used that momentum to stay alive with a dominant third-game performance. In the end, though, Marshalltown (6-8) pulled away and sealed the victory in the CIML Iowa Division opener for both programs.

”It’s kind of been the story of our season in the early going,” Burrell said. ”We’ll get off to a slow start, or we’ll look really good in stretches but we can’t sustain the intensity or the execution. I really think that more than anything else, there is a trust and confidence in each other that we’re still working (to obtain). We’ll get there, but it’s not where it needs to be yet.”

An early 9-2 deficit in the opening game forced a Dodger timeout, and it was 14-2 before the home squad finally started to settle into a rhythm. Fort Dodge eventually pulled back within 15-10 and 18-13, but the Bobcats scored seven of the game’s final eight points to win handily.

Marshalltown again had the upper-hand in game two at 16-9 before the Dodgers crept back into contention. With senior Alexis Erickson serving out of a timeout, FDSH reeled off four straight points and trailed only 22-20. The Bobcats never did fall behind, however, keeping their composure and sealing a tight two-point triumph.

Game three was never in doubt, with the Dodgers ahead from jump. Fort Dodge led by as many as eight points, and the edge didn’t dip below four in the latter stages of the stanza.

Burrell’s team was up 6-4 early in game four, and the Dodgers still held an 11-10 edge before Marshalltown seized command for good. A four-point run from a 12-12 tie gave the Bobcats some breathing room, and FDSH was never within three points the rest of the way.

Junior Beth Murman recorded 16 digs and 14 kills for the Dodgers, while senior Hannah Amhof (17 digs), junior Kaden Pederson (17 digs) and Erickson (17 digs) all helped FDSH’s defensive cause. On her 16th birthday, sophomore Kacee Gollob had 11 kills and three blocks. Junior Josie Shirbroun dished out 36 assists.

”Beth is just a solid all-around player for us, and I thought Kacee did a great job,” Burrell said. ”Hannah, Kaden and Alexis helped us in a lot of situations. Josie was solid. And Justice (Crooks) and Ebonee (Altman) played hard.

”I’m not disappointed in them individually – I just think we need to continue to work on being competitive at all times and getting on the same page. Talking, communicating. We can’t dig ourselves that kind of early hole; we have to be more aggressive and realize that yes, we can compete with these teams on a nightly basis.”

Burrell also wanted to thank the crowd for ”creating a true home (court) advantage.”

”They were amazing,” Burrell said. ”The students were fired up, and all of our fans really put us in position to feed off their energy. That means so much to us. We have to do a better job of using their support in our own actions and always play with a sense of urgency.”

The Dodgers host the Jackie Wilde Invitational on Saturday in the FDSH gym. Ames, Des Moines Christian, Council Bluffs Lewis Central and Pocahontas Area will be in town for the tournament.