The Western Dubuque volleyball team remembers what it takes to make a run to get their ticket punched to play in the state tournament. It’s very fresh in their mind as it was just last year that they were playing in the Class 4A championship game and the Bobcats want nothing more than to get a second chance at getting the school’s first state volleyball title.
Their play on the court might not quite be clicking like it was last November, but it’s close and most of the teams they have been battling against these past two weeks expect to be playing on the floor at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids come Nov. 2.
Last week the Bobcats earned a 5-1 record and posted a 3-1 mark against ranked teams. The only team to beat them was Iowa City Liberty (15-2), the sixth-ranked team in Class 5A, but it was a tough three-set tiebreaker match at the Prairie Invitational played in Cedar Rapids, Oct. 10.
The Bobcats started the week showcasing their fast-paced offense by taking care of Iowa City High in four sets (25-20, 25-13, 22-25, 25-17) at Epworth Oct. 7. The win improved Western Dubuque to 6-1 in the Mississippi Division of the Mississippi Valley Conference while the Little Hawks (3-6) dropped to 1-4 in the conference.
High-flying attackers Meredith Bahl, Meg Besler and Maddie Harris all had double-figures in kills, combining for 50 on the night, while the middles, Libby Lansing and Maci Steffen, teamed up to get eight kills from that position. Madison Maahs, one of the top five setters in Class 4A, had 58 assists and three kills of her own. She also had two aces and was 16 of 17 serving.
“Maddie (Maahs) did a great job of moving the ball around and when she does that makes us hard to defend. Offensively, that has been our goal all season,” said an excited Megan Scherrman, the Bobcats’ head coach. “Now that we have everybody back, healthy and ready to go, it’s so much easier to spread the ball around and keep the defense guessing where it’s going next.”
The Bobcats had no problem keeping the Little Hawks off balance in the opening two sets, but in the third set, City High found something that worked and caused problems for the home team. The Little Hawks scored three straight points to take a 6-4 lead early in the set, but it was a five-point streak later in the set that gave them a solid 16-12 advantage. Western Dubuque fought back twice closing to 19-17 and 23-21 before City High would side-out twice to win the set.
“Every day our focus is to take care of ourselves and work to make ourselves better on our side of the net. We need to make sure that the team we play earns their points. I talked to them about that sense of panic when some team runs off five or six points and they start looking at me,” said Scherrman, pointing to the situation in the third set. “I told them that they are an offensive unit that I wouldn’t want to defend. They need to remember that when a team gets their kill on the other side of the net, which they are going to do, that we get the ball back next so our offense gets a chance to roll. We just have to make sure we match our opponent point for point.”
In the fourth set, the Bobcats came out swinging. Down 10-9, Bahl powered a kill through a block that got them going. Maahs immediately served an ace to the back corner and the Bobcats were rolling. A kill by Besler put them up 17-10 as the eight-point streak came to an end. Lansing’s roof block made it 20-13 while a kill by Bahl ended the match.
“We all set each other up for success. It’s so much fun to play with these girls on this court,” said Harris. “The energy in here is just the best. Our fans are the best. I’m so happy and proud to be on this team and to be a Bobcat!”
In tournament play on Saturday, the Bobcats played against some solid customers and went 4-1. Sweeping Cedar Rapids Prairie (21-13, 21-15), Johnston and Wilton (21-17, 21-16) with their only loss coming against Iowa City Liberty 2-1 (19-21, 21-13, 9-15).
WD’s leaders in their match against, City High were: kills — Bahl 22, Besler and Harris 14, Lansing six, Maahs three, Steffen two; assists — Maahs 58, Steffen one; digs — Ella Meyer 23, Natalie Ulrichs 14, Bahl and Harris 13, Maahs 12, Steffen one; blocks — Lansing six, Besler three, Bahl, Harris and Steffen two; serves — Steffen 16-of-16, Harris 20-of-21, Bahl 19-of-20, Maahs 16-of-17, Ulrichs 12-of-13, Meyer 10-of-11; aces — Harris and Maahs two, Bahl and Meyer one.