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THE LITTLE THINGS

Dodgers can't sustain momentum in close four-set loss

—Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Fort Dodge’s Kiana Touney passes against Marshalltown on Tuesday evening in the Dodger gym. For more photos, visit CU at messengernews.net

The Fort Dodge volleyball team saw a prime opportunity to close out the regular season with a winning conference record slip through their fingers on Tuesday.

A four-set loss to Marshalltown wasn’t what Dodger head coach Martha Mericle had in mind after recent victories over both Ames and Mason City. The expectations have changed in the FDSH camp recently, which is good, but with it comes the responsibility of executing at a more consistent pace.

And last night, Mericle’s squad just didn’t have it.

Scores were 25-15, 23-25, 25-23 and 25-22 in favor of the Bobcats.

“It’s frustrating, because the potential is definitely there,” Mericle said. “When we start to build momentum, we have to keep it going. Instead, we’re just a rollercoaster ride of both emotion and performance. We’ll look strong in stretches, then it will disappear. That’s been a problem for most of the year.

“Just a lot of mistakes and mental errors we shouldn’t be making right before (the postseason). It’s not a question of talent against (an opponent) like (the Bobcats). It comes down to energy and doing the little things right.”

The Dodgers (6-17 overall, 2-3 in the CIML Iowa Conference) got off to a slow start, but made a spirited comeback in the second game to stay within striking distance. Trailing 14-6, they began to consistently chip away at the deficit, eventually pulling even at 17 and using a 6-0 run to gain the upper-hand.

Marshalltown (12-10, 2-1) fought back twice to tie the score, but Fort Dodge recorded the final two points to pull even in the match.

A 6-0 Bobcat spurt put the visitors up 18-11 in the third set, and although the Dodgers ultimately climbed to within a single point at 24-23, Marshalltown slammed the door.

The fourth game was all FDSH in the early going. An 8-2 burst put the Dodgers up 18-11, and it looked like the match was headed for a fifth and deciding set.

Instead, Fort Dodge came unraveled and the Bobcats secured the win with a closing 14-4 run.

“There’s just no excuse for losing a (seven-point lead) that late (in the set),” Mericle said. “We have to get to the point where we can finish a team off once we’ve taken control. Too many times, we’re either too slow out of the gates or too passive late. And you just can’t afford either at this level.

“The (service errors) and other mistakes are the mental (miscues) that open the door for the (opponent). You have to make them earn it. Again, the hard part is we’re right there. We just have to turn that corner.”

Senior Kiana Touney had a big night for the Dodgers, with 17 kills and five service aces on a 14 of 16 performance from the line. Touney also registered 10 digs.

Olivia Bell tallied 39 assists. Tory Bennett recorded 15 digs. Brooke Hansen chipped in 12 kills.

Fort Dodge plays at third-ranked (Class 5A) Cedar Falls next Thursday in a regional tournament semifinal.

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