By ANDY HEINTZ
Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA— Despite an inspired effort in game three, the Ottumwa volleyball team was swept by Des Moines Roosevelt (25-15, 25-22, 25-23) Tuesday at Evans Middle School Gymnasium on Senior Night in what the girls hope will not be a precursor of things to come.
"I thought the girls played very well in spells," Ottumwa coach Jessica Carson said. "We're lucky enough to get another opportunity to play Roosevelt again. We just need to make sure we're focused in our next week of practice."
The Bulldogs and Roughriders will meet again at 7 p.m. Monday at Des Moines in the first round of the Class 5A, Region tournament.
Ellie Hammack spearheaded the Ottumwa's offensive attack Tuesday with a team-high 11 kills and senior Megan Black added eight. In addition, senior Karissa Wilcoxson keyed the Bulldog offense with 20 assists and Black bolstered Ottumwa's defense with a team-best 26 digs.
"Karissa does a very good job hitting," Carson said.
The coach said Wilcoxson also has done a good job at the setter position since she made the switch to setter this season. In addition, Carson had some kind words for Black.
"Megan Black is a very strong player and the leader of this team," Carson said. "The girls look up to her a lot. She is the captain on our floor who brings the team in a positive direction when we need it."
The game remained close between Ottumwa and the Roughriders until about the eight point mark in game three, when Roosevelt assumed control of the momentum. The Roughriders' embarked on a 5-0 run that left them with a 13-8 lead. Later in the game, Black scored on a perfectly placed tip shot, but her point failed to curb Roosevelt's momentum. The Roughriders' lead climbed to 19-11 after Kaitlyn Williams slammed a spike Ottumwa couldn't return. The Roughriders went on to win the set by a cushy 25-15 margin.
The girls got off to a strong start in game two. Ottumwa managed to build an 8-5 lead after a successful spike by senior Megan Cobler.
"Megan Cobler is a very solid player and does a very good job of placing the ball where it needs to be," Carson said. "She finds the holes."
But just when things looked to be going Ottumwa's way, the Roughriders came charging back. Roosevelt ripped off six unanswered points. Hammack, trying to weather the storm for Ottumwa, temporarily stopped the bleeding with a kill that scraped the net and dropped onto Roosevelts' side of the court. The Roughriders star hitter Jaylynn Roberts Lewis offered an emphatic answer to the point with with a pair of kills.
Later in the game, a plethora of kills by Hammack helped Ottumwa whittle Roosevelt's lead down to 23-21. But Roughriders were able to pick up two more points to win it 25-22. The Bulldogs looked sharp to start game three. A vicious spike by Hammack gave Ottumwa an early 6-3 lead . Later in the game, senior Karissa Wilcoxson and Mallary Simmer executed a tremendous double block. The Bulldogs' lead climbed to 12-7 before the Roughriders mounted a rally. Roosevelt ticked off six of the next seven points, leaving the two teams locked in a 13-13 tie.
Ottumwa answered Roosevelts' run with solid play, including a kill by Hammack that gave the Bulldogs a slim 17-15 edge. The Roughriders fought back and successfully reclaimed the game's momentum. But, once Roosevelt had built a 21-18 lead, Ottumwa ripped off three unanswered points highlighted by a crushing double block by Bitner and Hammack that tied the game.
The Bulldogs momentum, however, proved to fleeting, as the Rougriders scored four of the next six points and picked up the 25-23 win. One of Roosevelts' final points came after a long volley decorated with a number of terrific shots by Bitner that kept the ball in play for the Bulldogs.
"Hope did a great job of making some huge key plays," Carson said. "Hope did a good job of stepping up and making big plays when they were needed."
The Bulldogs (14-24) will get their chance to avenge Thursday's loss when they take on the Roughriders Monday. Thus far this season, figuring out how to beat the Roosevelt has been a riddle Ottumwa has yet to solve: The Bulldogs are 0-3 against the Roughriders. Still, the girls gave Roosevelt all it could handle and then some in game three.
"We're going to go into the game with our heads held high," Wilcoxson said, "hopefully pulling out a win to move on to second round. We just have to get a block up on No. 4 [Roberts Lewis]. She's the No. 1 hitter in conference, she's going to be good."
Carson offered a similar statement.
"We have to make sure our defense is reading the hitter [Roberts Lewis]," the coach said. "They have one very good hitter and we need to make sure we're able to dig up her ball and get it up in the air."
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Des Moines Roosevelt 25-25-25
Serving — Megan Black 12-12, Hope Bitner 9-10, Chloe Davis 11-11, Karissa Wilcoxson 13-13, Kassidi Henderson 6-7. Team — 50-53.
Aces — Black, Bitner, Hammack. Team — 3.
Hitting — Black 29-33, Bitner 10-12, Mallary Simmer 8-10, Ellie Hammack 25-29, Wilcoxson 16-19, Megan Cobler 9-12. Team — 50-53.
Kills — Black 8, Bitner 4, Simmer 3, Hammack 11, Wilcoxson 4, Cobler 5. Team — 35.
Setting — Davis 11, Wilcoxson 20. Team — 31.
Blocks — Black 2, Dani Reed 2, Simmer 2, Hammack, Wilcoxson. Team — 8.
Digs — Kassidi Henderson 14, Megan Cobler 3, Wilcoxson 8, Ellie Hammack 4, Chloe Davis 7, Black 26. Team — 62.