BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – It looked like it was going to be a quick evening for the Fort Madison Bloodhound volleyball team on Tuesday night, but Fairfield had a different idea.
After Fort Madison had run out to a quick 2-0 nothing lead, Fairfield took control about a third of the way through game three to force a fourth game at the Hound Dome. The Bloodhounds won that game 25-22 to advance to the Region 7 finals against top-seeded and Class 4A top-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier. That game is set for Monday at 7 p.m.
Fort Madison had swept two previous meetings with the Trojans and were on pace to sweep them again, pulling out to a quick 14-9 lead in the first game on a five-of-five serving run by senior Amber Dilsaver, that included three kills by Kaeli Hutson. After a scoring correction on a Fairfield point had the score at 16-12, the Trojans closed the gap to 16-15 before the Hounds took the game over.
Dilsaver had four kills in the next nine points sandwiched around a McKenna Fehseke kill and a rare Leigh Johnson attack. Dilsaver added another kill at 24-18 and Olivia Williams put the game away on the next serve.
The writing was on the wall, of sorts, in the second game when the Hounds raced to a 21-16 lead and had the game in hand. But the Trojans made a game of it when the Hounds had three errors in a row to let Fairfield back in at 21-19 with Shaylin Drish scoring on three straight serves. A Bloodhound block stopped the run, but a net violation made it a two-point game 22-20. The teams would trade points to 24-22 before Dilsaver put the game away with a kill at 25-22.
The third game started the same as the others with the teams trading points in the early going with FMHS taking as much as a 4 point lead at 9-5 before the Trojans tied the game at 10 on a kill by junior Alison Godwin. The Trojans got the momentum at 10-12 when Hutson’s attack sailed wide right. Senior Courtney Woodley had a block to bring the Hounds back to within one at 11-12 and then Josie Pumphrey put up back-to-back aces to give Fort Madison the lead again 13-12.
The two teams suffered through three more ties at 13, 14, and 16 before Fairfield pushed the lead to 19-16. Dilsaver got the Hounds back within two at 17-19, but then the Trojans went on another 5-0 scoring run with some firepower of their own at the net and led 22-17. A kill by Jillian Wiseman brought the Hounds back within three at 20-23 and forced a Fairfield timeout. The Hounds got the next point out of the timeout, but Fairfield put two more on the board to lead 24-22 and won the game on the next service point.
The Trojans had a tiebreaker in mind going into the fourth game sprinting to an 8-0 run on eight straight service points by junior Kara Jeffrey. Woodley got a kill to get a sideout for Fort Madison. The Hounds’ Kamryn Bailey came to the service line and served the Hounds back into the game with seven straight points, aided by two kills from senior Shyla Farmer and a kill by Dilsaver.
Dilsaver, who finished the night 38-42 hitting with 19 kills and three blocks, then tied the game up on a block at 10s and the ties were on again. With the score knotted at 12, 14, 20, and 22, Dilsaver got two back to back kills at 23 and 24 before Williams served for the game at 25-22.
Senior Leigh Johnson, who’s led the Hounds all year in assists and setting up the middle and outside hitter, said she was nervous the season might end right there.
“I don’t want to be done. This is the last time ever playing high school volleyball with my best friends and I just didn’t want to be done,” she said.
Johnson pointed to some timing issues and said the team has had some timing issues in the past, but tonight was worse than usual.
“We just needed to connect better. Our passes were off, our sets were off, and our hitting was out of bounds,” Johnson said. “We just need to play better.”
She said she’s played club volleyball with five of the girls from Xavier and Monday will be a tough match.
Bailey was disappointed in his team’s aggression during the second half of the match.
“At this point in the season, you have to play every point and there were times tonight we didn’t do that as well as we’re capable of,” he said.
When the third game turned south for the Hounds, Bailey called a timeout to regroup.
“I wanted our kids to swing and hit the ball and we didn’t do that,” he said. “And it’s frustrating because we have the best hitters in the conference and we’re not swinging.”
He, too, noticed the timing issues Johnson had mentioned, saying the setters and hitters were out of sync at different times during the evening. But he said the squad battled back from an 0-8 deficit to win the match and they’ll need to come to play on Monday against the top-ranked Saints.
“Give Fairfield credit for making us work,” he said. “They outplayed us in game 3 and jumped out to the 8-0 lead in game 4. Give our kids credit for battling back tying that game up at 10. Kamryn got us going with her serve and that seemed to jump start the passing and our hitting.”
He said Xavier, who eliminated the Hounds last year at the same point, will bring good hitting.
“They’ve got two really good outside hitters and they’re going to make us work for everything we get. The other side is that we’ve got a team that can compete with them if they want to go out and play.
When asked if he was looking for a little more physical play Monday, Bailey gave a one word answer.
Woodley hit 23-26, with seven kills and Feheske ended hitting 27-30 with six kills and Wiseman hit 22-30 with 12 kills and three blocks. Johnson led the Hounds with 43 assists and Bailey led the team with 22-23 serving with three aces.