BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – FMHS battled back in each of the first four sets to force a tiebreaker against Iowa City Liberty at the Hound Dome Tuesday night in girls volleyball action.
But the Hounds jumped out a 5-1 lead in the tiebreaker only to fall 9-15 to lose the match to the 8-15 Lightning, 21-25, 27-25, 22-25, 25-18 (9-15).
In the first game the Hounds were down 4-6 before senior Amber Dilsaver served out five straight points to push the lead to 9-6 before Liberty’s Roman Lauren got the kill to make it a one point game. The entire varsity squad for the new Liberty high school is made up of freshman and sophomores with the exception of one junior.
The team battled through a one-point swing until an error on the Lightning gave the Hounds a slight 14-12 advantage, but a kill by Madian Elola again closed the gap to one point where it would stay until the Hounds blocked a kill that sailed out of bounds and the Lightning were one point away. Dilsaver missed on a kill and LeeAnn Potter had a kill of her own for Iowa City and the game was over 25-21.
The Hounds battled back from a 4-11 deficit in the second set getting good play at the net from senior Shyla Farmer who had two kills and a block to pull Fort Madison to within one at 12-13. Liberty got shots from Elola and Olivia Slattery to push the lead out to 12-15. The three-point lead would hold until an FMHS error made it 14-19.
Olivia Williams served three straight with Dilsaver getting two big blocks and a kill to bring the Hounds back at 18-20 in the midst of a 6-2 run. Junior Kaeli Hutson had back-to-back kills and an error by the Lightning knotted the set at 21s. Slattery added a kill that was answered by sophomore Jillian Wiseman. Dilsaver threw in another block and the score was tied again at 24. After trading the next two points, the Hounds’ Farmer recorded a kill and then senior McKenna Fehseke ended the set with a kill from the left side to even up the contest.
The third game was much the same nip-and tuck through the set with the biggest lead coming at 13-11 and 15-13 for the Hounds, both on kills by junior Jassmine Bass. The Lightning tied it up at 14s on a hitting error by the Hounds at the net and then the visitors took their first lead of the game 16-17 on another FMHS hitting error.
Head Coach Kent Bailey said that was the theme of the night.
“Our biggest problem tonight was we just made way too many mistakes,” he said. “Give them credit. They forced us to and we did.”
At 18-21 the Hounds committed four hitting errors in six points to surrender the contest 22-25.
In the fourth game the Hounds and Lightning traded points through a 4-4 tie and before Iowa City went on an 8-3 run to take at 12-7 lead on a kill by Elola. The Hounds put together a couple of scoring streaks, at 4-1 on a kill by Fehseke to close the gap to 11-13 and then Dilsaver went to work at the net with three kills and a big block to set the Hounds on a 5-0 run that left them up 17-13. The Lightning wouldn’t get much closer in that set with FMHS running away with that set 25-18 on a kill by Wiseman and a Lightning hitting error to end the game.
Senior Kamryn Bailey served nine straight for the Hounds during an 8-0 run in the set.
“We did some good things serving when we quit serving for aces and served to put it in somewhere like they were doing, but we made too many serving mistakes early and had to work our way out,” Bailey said.
In the tiebreaker Fehseke had two back-to-back kills to force an Iowa City timeout, but the stoppage worked and the Lightning put six quick points on the board with Koski Piper serving the whole way. Bailey called a timeout at 5-7, but the Hounds couldn’t get back in rhythm before Iowa City reached 15.
Bailey said he should have stopped play earlier than he did.
“Our mindset in the tiebreaker was to get a couple more plays and we go up 7-1 and that game is about over. But I made a mistake and didn’t call a timeout sooner to help us refocus and I allowed them to get up a couple points on us and then we had to battle back and we just didn’t do that as well tonight.”
The Hounds are 16-5 and had just entered the state rankings at No. 14 after a 10-match win streak. They host Mediapolis on Thursday and then return to conference action Tuesday at Fairfield.