BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Despite what looks on paper to be an easy win for the FMHS volleyball team, the Hounds ran into several slumps in fighting off Keokuk at home Tuesday night.
The Bloodhounds won 25-10, 25-19, 25-13 in straight sets but trailed in the 2nd and 3rd sets multiple times before rallying at different times to put the match away.
The Bloodhounds may have settled into coast mode starting the first set 15-0 on the serving of Olivia Williams. The Chiefs didn’t get a sideout in the set until junior Jillian Wiseman’s attack went long at 15-1 Hounds.
After the teams traded a couple points, senior Josie Pumphrey put together three straight aces to go with a couple of Chiefs’ errors to give the Hounds a 21-3 lead, but the Chiefs put on a mini run to put off the second set. The Chiefs’ Gracie Koeber served five straight with the Chiefs getting kills from Cassidy Koeber to cut into the lead 21-8. The Hound had three errors in the run before Braxtyn McGhghy got a kill to end the run at 22-9. Senior Olivia Williams had a kill on the next service from Keokuk and two Chiefs’ errors wrapped up the game.
The second game was close most of the way with Keokuk getting its first lead of the night at 3-4. They would push that lead to 3-6 on an ace by Gracie Koeber, but senior Kaeli Hutson scored a kill at 4-6 and then went to the service line and scored a couple on a Chiefs’ net error and a kill by senior Jassmine Bass to knot it at 6-all. The Hounds gave up the lead again on a error on Hutson’s third serve.
With both teams scoring on defensive errors and rarely getting an offensive set going, the Hounds found themselves down 8-12. Keokuk was then penalized two points for an alleged improper rotation of the libero in to serve. Head Coach Randy Loges protested for about 15 minutes and received three yellow cards from officials before play resumed. Loges complained to officials that it was a scorekeeping error, but the score was reset to 8-9, but then one point was added back to make it 8-10.
The delay seemed to reset the Hounds, as well, as they went on a 7-2 run with three kills from Wiseman. A serve into the net by Williams ended the run with the Hounds up 15-12. Two FMHS errors brought the game back to within one at 15-14 and the Chiefs would tie it up with an attack error by Wiseman at 16-all.
Keokuk would get just two more points on errors by the Hounds before moving to game three. The Hounds would take control with the set tied at 3 apiece when sophomore Lauren Bailey served six straight with assists from Hutson, who had three kills in the run, to give the Bloodhounds at 7-3 lead. A net error gave Keokuk a sideout. Pumphrey served the Hounds to a 10-5 lead, but the Chiefs would hang around for a while scoring three straight off attack errors until Bass got off a kill at 11-7.
The Chiefs would score only one more point off their own serve in the match as Fort Madison ran out to a 21-12 lead with a couple kills from Wiseman before putting the set away 25-13.
Head Coach Kent Bailey said the girls lacked the crispness they will need to move through the season. The Hounds haven’t dropped a set since a 2-1 win over Quincy back on Sept. 1 and have won seven matches in a row since that tournament.
“It was a combination of things tonight,” Bailey said after the game. “Our passing wasn’t great tonight, it wasn’t crisp. Our sets weren’t where they needed to be consistently and our hitters were just a little off, so it was a combination of those things.”
He said the Chiefs really didn’t throw anything different at the Bloodhounds, but it was mental mistakes on their own side of the ball that made the match tough at times.
“I think the bigger thing was on our side of the net. We didn’t pass well, meaning we took a lot of balls and hit them to the middle on their side, which made them easier to pass and then they got into the system and hit it back at us at a wide open floor. Give them credit, they did a great job of that tonight.”
Bailey said the Hounds need to elevate their game and not take games off with big leads or assume a win is at hand.
“I spend time nervous about every game and I think the kids look at some of these and think, ‘we’ll win this and we can take this off a little bit’,” he said. “We’ve got to understand every game we’ve gotta bring it.”
FMHS is now 11-4 on the year and is off until Monday’s Holy Trinity Classic, which could set the Hounds on a collision course with Class 1A 4th ranked Holy Trinity.
“It’ll be crazy over there. Our side has Mt. Pleasant, Wapello, and Central Lee and the top two out of the pool go to the championship bracket.
“I’m hoping to run into them in the championship, but we’ve got to take care of things on our side to get there,” Bailey said.
Williams led the Hounds from the line going 21-24 with two aces. Pumphrey went 13-15 with six aces. Wiseman was 22-24 hitting with 14 kills, and Hutson was 24-27 with 10 kills. Bailey had 26 assists to lead the Hounds and Pumphrey had 16 digs from the back row in the win.
9th grade won 25-9, 25-6 and the junior varsity won 25-11, 25-16.