Ballard volleyball team reaches double-digit wins for the third year in a row: Bombers go 11-18

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune
Riley Askelsen was an outstanding setter for the Ballard volleyball team 2021.

The Ballard volleyball program couldn't find enough consistency to make huge gains in 2021, but the Bombers still managed to reach a double-figure win total for the third season in a row.

The Bombers needed to replace several key players from last year's 12-14 team. There were a lot of ups and downs as a result, but they were always competitive in finishing 11-18 overall and 3-5 in the Raccoon River Conference.

"I feel our season was a success in many ways," Ballard head coach Morgan Bennett said. "Our record doesn't show how much we competed and how hard we fought in many of our matches. We did not make it easy on any of our opponents."

Ballard lost four matches via the rally game. The Bombers also took one set in three of their setbacks.

"Finishing matches was a challenge for us this year," Bennett said. "A few times we would come out strong and take the first set, but then fall short. Or, get down and come back, then not be able to seal the win in the deciding set." 

The Bombers defeated Iowa Falls-Alden, West Marshall, Van Meter, Des Moines Lincoln, Prairie City-Monroe and Perry and got two victories over Williamsburg outside of conference play. Their three RRC victories came at the hands of Carlisle (3-1), Boone (3-0) and Gilbert (3-1).

Ballard's losses came at the hands of Pella (twice), Adel-Desoto-Minburn, Bondurant-Farrar, Humboldt, Des Moines Christian, Grand View Christian (twice), Carroll, Nevada (twice), Glenwood (twice), Harlan, South Hardin, North Polk, Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Winterset.

The Bombers gave a tremendous effort against Nevada in the Class 3A regional quarterfinals. They were unable to advance, but pushed the Cubs the full five sets before coming up short.

But Bennett was pleased with the development of her younger players throughout the season.

"Our team had many first-time varsity players this year," Bennett said. "Their confidence grew every match."

Ballard had 671 kills in 2,395 attacks and a kill-efficiency rate of 9.5 % during the season. The Bombers recorded 963 digs and 218 blocks and they served with 90.3 % accuracy and 185 aces.

Ava Ashworth was the go-to force for Ballard at outside hitter.

A first-team all-RRC performer, Ashworth had 234 kills in 80 sets with an 11 % kill-efficiency rate despite going up against constant double-teams at the net. Ashworth also put up 187 digs, 43 aces and 32 blocks.

"Ava Ashworth was a great leader," Bennett said. "She was a four-year starter having the most varsity experience by far and helped shape these younger players all season long."

Sophomore Brooklyn Baumgardner became a force at middle blocker.

Baumgardner had 123 kills on excellent 28.2 % efficiency. She used her 6-2 frame to decimate opposing teams on defense in recording 89 blocks.

"Brooklyn Baumgardner really stood out to me this year as a sophomore," Bennett said. "She is a dominant net player who can block and hit."

Sophomore Memphis Inglett finished right at 100 kills and added 35 blocks and 22 digs. Rylee Scherder had 95 kills, Kate Miller 57, Alliyah Thompson 23, Riley Askelsen 19 and Ally Baker 10.

Kate Miller emerged as a weapon at outside hitter for Ballard in 2021.

Askelsen handled most of the setting duties and she handed out 401 assists and had 167 digs. Askelsen also led the team in aces with 50 and served at a 96.5 % clip.

Baker also played at setter and finished with 142 assists and added 80 digs and 21 aces. 

Scherder finished with 153 digs and 28 aces. Miller had 24 blocks and 22 digs and Thompson 14 blocks.

Seniors Kerrigan Boock and Hailey Battani were valuable assets as defensive specialists. Boock tallied 114 digs and 17 aces and Battani had 110 digs.

Freshman Payton Askelsen added 32 digs and freshman Ella Asworth 14 digs.

Losing Ava Ashworth will be a huge blow to the team next season. The Bombers will also need a couple individuals to step up to make up for the production lost by the graduation of Boock and Battani in the back row.

But with the rise of Baumgardner and the steady hands of Askelsen and Baker running the show leading the way Ballard brings enough talent back to challenge for a winning record in 2022.

"Next year, it will be exciting to see what these girls will accomplish with the majority of the team returning," Bennett said. "Bringing their experience and team chemistry they established this year into next season will play a big role in their upcoming successes."