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Valiant effort at the net by FDSH

-Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Tjaden Pettit-Johnston of Fort Dodge blocks a shot against Ankeny Centennial on Tuesday

Even though Fort Dodge was swept by sixth-ranked (Class 5A) Ankeny Centennial on Tuesday in its home volleyball opener, head coach Toni Cochrane felt like her squad took a significant step forward thanks to the energy of her players and the liveliness of a much-appreciated home crowd.

After 11 road matches to start the year, the Dodgers put together a spirited effort after finally settling into the comforts of their home gym. The Jaguars were on the ropes in the second game but steadied the course and finished what they started, ultimately scoring victories of 25-19, 25-21 and 25-14.

“I thought we really battled from start to finish,” Cochrane said. “There were stretches where we had them second-guessing themselves a little, especially during that second game. But we just couldn’t get out of our own way enough and reach that level of consistency it takes to beat a team like this.

“Their experience kind of took over. They’re used to winning and it showed, because no matter how far down we got them, they didn’t panic.”

Fort Dodge was within reach in the opening frame, but never made a serious run at the lead. The Dodgers didn’t trail by more than eight points at any time, but couldn’t get closer than 14-11 as things progressed.

Cochrane’s team came out on fire in the second, moving ahead 6-1 immediately and forcing Centennial (3-2 overall) to take a timeout. It was 9-3 following a kill by Kiana Touney and an ace from Alexis Hiracheta, and FDSH (1-11) had its biggest lead at 11-4 before the Jaguars started to chip away at the deficit.

Behind 20-15, Centennial took a timeout to regroup. The Jaguars then reeled off 10 of the game’s final 11 points to take a commanding 2-0 advantage.

“We had it, but let it slip through our hands,” Cochrane said. “If we win there and tie (the match), who knows where it goes — especially with the momentum the crowd was giving us. But we couldn’t close things out, and that kind of carried over into the third game.”

Sophomore Tory Bennett had 13 digs and was a perfect 8-for-8 serving. Nicole Guerin was 9-for-9 serving and added three blocks.

Touney recorded seven kills, while Kathryn Cochrane finished with nine digs and eight assists.

“Our defense was really strong,” Cochrane said. “That’s kind of the backbone of this group. Tory came up with some really big digs that got us going and added excitement to (the match). Tory, Ciarra (Love) and the others really did well, and we had some nice blocks up front, too.

“All we can ask is for maximum effort and for the girls to do their best. The execution still needs to be better, obviously, but if we fight like we did (Tuesday), the results will come.”

Fort Dodge dropped the junior varsity (25-20 and 25-14), sophomore (25-7 and 25-18), freshman A (25-5 and 25-21) and freshman B (25-13 and 25-20) matches to Centennial as well.

The Dodgers return to action on Saturday at the West Des Moines Valley Invitational.