Ballard plays Pella tough in opener
IOWA FALLS — A hot start didn’t hold up for the Ballard volleyball team in a four-set loss at Iowa Falls-Alden Aug. 29.
The Bombers controlled the first set, winning 25-17. But Iowa Falls-Alden dominated the second set, 25-15, to even things up.
The Cadets took the third set, 25-21. With all the momentum on their side, they went on to win the fourth set, 25-20, to take the match.
The loss put Ballard at 0-2 on the season. Carley Wilson had 15 kills, six digs and three aces and Ava Ashworth nine kills, nine digs, one block and one ace for the Bombers.
Brynna Huen handed out 31 assists and also came up with four digs and two kills. Cecilia Christensen added five kills and two blocks, Aviah Taylor two blocks and one kill, Natalie Maher two kills and two digs and Molly Houge nine digs and one ace.
HUXLEY — Ballard didn’t get a victory in its opening match against Pella Tuesday, but the Bombers showed they have the potential to be a much more competitive team this fall.
Ballard fell to Pella in four sets Tuesday at Huxley. But all four sets were decided by four points or less.
Pella took both the first and third sets by a 25-21 score. Ballard won the second, also by a 25-21 decision.
In the fourth set, Ballard rallied from a 14-10 deficit to take a 24-22 lead, but the Bombers struggled with their serve receive late, suffering a 28-26 setback.
Even in defeat, Ballard took a big step forward. The Little Dutch easily swept the Bombers in the 2018 opener.
“We are communicating better than last year,” Ballard junior outside hitter Carley Wilson said. “When we are down, we are picking each other up and have gotten better in every area.”
A more carefree approach has helped the Ballard players feel more comfortable on the court this season.
“It starts with a positive atmosphere,” Ballard head coach Morgan Bennett said. “We are always looking for how to build momentum — making the next play better than before.”
Bennett is in her first season coaching the Bombers. She is putting a big emphasis on relaxing and having fun.
“We do a lot of team bonding at nights after practices, which really helps us get closer together,” Wilson said. “We usually go out to eat or go hang out at someone’s house.”
That helped Ballard stay in sync as a team for most of the night versus Pella. The Bombers were never out of a set — something they couldn’t say much last year when they won only five matches.
In the first set of Tuesday’s match, Pella won by scoring the final four points after the score was tied at 21-21. The second set saw Ballard rally from a 16-13 deficit to go up 20-16 on its way to victory.
Sophomore Ava Ashworth keyed Ballard’s win in the second set. She had an ace and a kill to help finish off the big run that put the Bombers in control.
“In those tight situations tonight we definitely kept our heads up,” Ballard sophomore outside hitter Ava Ashworth said. “We need to finish and push every point we have.”
Wilson also came up with a big kill late in the set to sew up the win.
Pella was in control most of the third set, but Ballard never let it get out of hand. A tip kill from Wilson pulled the Bombers within 21-19, but Pella scored four of the next six points to finish off the victory.
In the fourth set, the Bombers played great until running out of gas down the stretch.
Ballard was on the verge of victory in the fourth set after a Natalie Maher kill set up game point for the Bombers. But Pella came back to take a 25-24 lead, and the two teams went back and forth for a few points before Payton Turner connected on back-to-back aces for the Little Dutch to end the set and the match.
“I think we got a little tired at the end,” Bennett said. “I’m upset that it did end on an ace for the other team, but we’ll just keep working on pushing through.”
Ashworth was a big bright spot for Ballard.
Wilson was the primary hitter for the Bombers last season, recording nearly twice as many kills as any other Ballard player. Against Pella, Ashworth stepped up to give her team a second big weapon from the outside.
Both Ashworth and Wilson hammered down 17 kills against the Little Dutch. Ashworth also came up with 15 digs and Wilson tallied nine plus two aces.
“Ava and I both like to play club volleyball, so we both have learned to become better hitters,” Wilson said. “It makes us stronger as a team because then the other team doesn’t know who to focus on.”
Maher finished with seven kills and four aces, Cecilia Christensen four kills and Aviah Taylor three blocks for Ballard. Brynna Huen had a strong night at setter with 36 assists and Molly Houge had 11 digs in the back row at the libero.
Bailey Van Voorst led Pella with 11 kills and Ella Corbin added 10 for the Little Dutch.