BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – After a tough Saturday tournament where the FMHS girls volleyball team played six matches in one day, the Hounds looked fresh in a three-set win over Mt. Pleasant Tuesday at home.
Fort Madison knocked off Mt. Pleasant 25-11, 25-6, 25-21 in front of a rowdy student section in the first conference game of the year for both teams.
The third game got close after Head Coach Kent Bailey began subbing in some of the younger girls, but eventually went back to the starters when things were headed for a fourth game.
“I did not want to go to a fourth game,” Bailey said. “It was hot in here and it’s one of those nights where kids can cramp up and I was hoping we wouldn’t do that. Our young kids played well and I was hoping they could finish that up, but unfortunately they didn’t.”
The first game was close through the first seven points as the teams got settled in with the Lady Hounds taking a 4-3 lead. Then senior libero Josie Pumphrey got hot from behind the line and took Fort Madison on a nine-point run featuring back-to-back kills from Kaeli Hutson at 8-3 and 9-3. The run continued with Braxtyn McGhghy putting down a set from sophomore Lauren Bailey to give the Hounds a 14-3 lead.
“I’ve been really practicing a lot in gym to get a high velocity serve and get more speed on it,” Pumphrey said of her success at the line. “I’ve also been working on my float serve because it’s harder to pass than the top spin, so I’ve been working on that.”
The Panthers would only cut the lead to seven at 17-10 after a Hound defensive error forced Bailey to call a time out. The message was received loud and clear as Fort Madison went on an 8-1 run to get the first game. Olivia Williams served seven straight, including an ace, out of the timeout.
Mt. Pleasant wouldn’t get very far into the second game. With the Hounds leading 3-1 early on, junior Jillian Wiseman hit a kill long to let the Panthers get within one at 3-2, but then Pumphrey put some distance between the two spurring a 10-0 run. Senior Jassmine Bass had three kills in the run.
Bass finished with 16-17 hitting and eight kills on the night. She said last weekend’s tournament helped the girls bring energy, and said some work on net play during the preseason has helped her confidence.
“This weekend was pretty good for us. I think it helped us today,” Bass said. “I think Mike Davis has helped us a lot in practice on blocking and closing and squeezing our shoulders and I think that’s helped a lot this year.”
With the Hounds up 14-4 after Pumphrey’s run, The Hounds would get two more kills from Bass on the way to stretching the lead to 23-5. An errant service by the Panthers’ Lindy Vantiger closed out the game.
Fort Madison jumped out to a 14-7 lead quickly in the third set getting an ace from Hutson and two from junior Gracie Pumphrey. Bailey started bringing in some of the younger players for action, but four errors in five points allowed Mt. Pleasant to come back to an 18-16 deficit and Bailey rotated the starters back in over the next few points.
The Panthers would hang around at 22-18 and 23-21, but a Wiseman klll put Fort Madison up 24-21 and then the Panthers’ Sadie Carrasco hit a ball long to end the night for Mt. Pleasant.
Bailey said the Hounds brought the quicker uptempo style of play from Saturday’s tournament in Bondurant to the home court.
“This weekend helped us prepare, and we learned to play a quicker tempo from playing up there,” he said. “Our kids came in and played focused and were ready to play on our home court in front of our fans. We had a great fan base tonight.”
Josie Pumphrey finished with 23-25 from the service line with six aces. She also had 11 digs to lead FMHS. Bailey had 27 assists which was tops for the Hounds. Hutson was 21-22 hitting with 12 kills and 10 digs. Wiseman had nine kills and tied Bass for the team lead with two blocks on the night.
Bailey credited the back row with keeping the offense moving.
“I thought our back row did a great job passing the ball and covering the floor, and made Lauren’s job easier setting the ball. And then our hitters took care of it,” he said.
The varsity squad is now 4-3 overall and 1-0 in the conference. The junior varsity won their match 25-13, 25-13 and are 1-0 on the year. The freshmen won 25-16, 25-18 and are 2-0 on the season. The varsity travel to Quincy for a Saturday tournament and the freshmen play in the Mount Pleasant tournament on Saturday.