Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Everything was going swimmingly for the Ottumwa volleyball team at the start of its home opener against Mount Pleasant, but things gradually got worse as the evening progressed. Despite the promising start, the Bulldogs fell to the Panthers (25-18, 27-25, 25-14, 25-15) Thursday at Evans Middle School.
The girls exuded energy and confidence to start the game. After they fell behind in the opening minutes, the Bulldogs rallied back to tie the game at 7-7. Megan Robertson capped off the rally by scoring on an ace. A pair of kills by Shayleigh Smith and Brianne Holtkamp helped Mount Pleasant reclaim the lead. Black, however, offered a swift riposte. The senior Bulldog scored on a block and a monster spike to tie the game at 14-14. Ottumwa went on to rip off six-straight points that culminated with a spike by Black. The Bulldogs went on to pick up the 25-18 win.
The action went back and forth to start game two. An ace by Black and a kill by Mallary Simmer vaulted Ottumwa to a 9-7 lead. The Panthers responded by ticking off five-straight points, including a pair of kills by Smith and Mary Wester. The Panthers began to exploit their substantial strength and height advantage by filling the gymnasium with crushing spikes. They managed to build a 21-15 lead before Ottumwa mounted a comeback.
The Bulldogs, spearheaded by Black, went on an 8-2 run that tied the score at 23. Unfortunately, Ottumwa couldn't come up with enough clutch shots to seal deal and the Panthers squeaked out a 27-25 win. The Bulldogs never recovered from the tightly-contested game.
"We just basically couldn't pull things together," Carson said. "We couldn't quite collect ourselves as a team and come to the floor as a team.
While Ottumwa's momentum dissipated quickly, the Panthers seemed to grow stronger as the match progressed, as they overpowered the smaller Bulldog team with a flurry of spikes. Black kept Ottumwa within striking distance early in game three with a couple big spikes of her own, but a pair of kills by Smith and Wester helped Mount Pleasant build a 15-10 lead. A couple of minutes later, Brianne Potts and Taryne Shull scored on a double block that grew the Panthers lead to 22-13. Mount Pleasant went on to win 25-14.
Game four didn't go any better than game three for the Bulldogs. The Panthers, spurred by a pair of successful spikes by Shull, jumped to a 7-1 lead and Ottumwa was never able to substantially close the gap and Mount Pleasant went on to win the set 25-15.
"In volleyball, momentum is a huge part of it and we just have to make sure we play hard all the time," Carson said. "I was disappointed with today's match. All we can do from this is move forward."
The Bulldog coach didn't think his team exerted as much effort as they could have after it lost game two.
"I didn't feel like we fought all the way through the games and that's one of our strengths," Carson said. "We need to make sure we fight and keep the ball alive at all times. It doesn't matter how we keep the ball up, but we have to keep the ball up."
The Bulldogs (2-9) put on their home tournament today at Evans Middle School.
Mount Pleasant 18-27-25-25
Serving — Megan Black 8-10, Hope Bitner 16-19, Mallary Simmer 10-10, Ellie Hammack 15-16, Megan Robertson 12-15, Chloe Davis 9-10. Team —70-80.
Aces — Black 3, Simmer, Hammack, Robertson 2, Bitner 2. Team — 9.
Hitting — Black 46-50, Bitner 16-19, Hammack 17-20, Karissa Wilcoxson 10-13, Megan Robertson 6-11, Davis 4-4, Cobler 1-2. Team —103-127.
Kills — Black 22, Bitner 4, Megan Cobler, Hammack 6, Simmer, Wilcoxson, Robertson 3. Team — 38.
Setting — Davis 16, Robertson 12, Simmer, Wilcoxson. Team — 30.
Blocks — Black 3, Bitner, Simmer 3. Team — 7.
Digs — Black 18, Bitner 2, Simmer 10, Hammack 17, Wilcoxson, Robertson 5, Kassidi Henderson 7, Cobler, Davis 5. Team — 66.
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