STATE CENTER — The West Marshall volleyball team didn’t give PCM many chances at the net on Oct. 18.
The Trojans featured a lineup with four hitters who have more than 100 kills on the season. And that depth was on display against the Mustangs during a Class 3A Region 6 quarterfinal match.
West Marshall used its homecourt advantage to gain early momentum, and then the Trojans put away the Mustangs with big runs at the end of all three sets.
West Marshall (28-10) advanced to the semifinals with a 25-7, 25-14, 25-12 victory.
The Trojans played 12th ranked Iowa Falls-Alden on Oct. 24 in Iowa Falls.
“They have some great hitters. It’s not one of those things where they have one on the outside and then we can score once she goes to the back row,” Samson said. “They have several girls who can score at the net.”
The Mustangs were without their best hitter for the sixth straight match. Junior Maddie Samson finished the season on the bench because of a concussion. Her sister and coach hopes she can return next season.
“She brings a lot of positive energy that the girls feed off of,” Coach Samson said. “As a coach, I was always like when you are coming back. But as a sister, I just kept asking her if she was OK. It was sad to see her finish the year that way. It was tough on everyone, but hopefully we get her back next year.”
PCM (10-20) hung around early in all three sets but couldn’t sustain the momentum against a West Marshall squad who ran a faster offense that the Mustangs struggled with all season.
An ace by freshman Celeste Wagaman pulled PCM to within 11-7 in the opening set, but West Marshall won the final 14 points and won 25-7.
It was much better for PCM in the second set. The Mustangs led early and the set featured four ties before West Marshall outscored them 10-2 in the final 12 points.
“They have a quick offense, and we’ve struggled with that all year,” Coach Samson said. “We also made silly mistakes, and you can’t do that against a great team.”
PCM was tied at 8-all in the final set. West Marshall though rolled off 11 straight to take control and outscored the Mustangs 17-4 in the final stretch of the game.
“There were hits coming at us from all three spots on the front row. We just couldn’t get too many touches on the ball,” Coach Samson said. “I just felt like we never had a moment where we were able to score points consistently.
The Mustangs surpassed last year’s win total in Coach Samson’s first season. She will say goodbye to five senior starters but welcomes back a slew of letter winners who provide the program with a solid base.
Senior Regan Olson and Wagaman finished with four kills to lead the offense, and junior Sloan Hjortshoj tallied three kills. Senior Kenzie Johnson had a team-high five digs, senior Olivia Lippman chipped in three digs and two aces and senior Kenzie Phipps collected four digs.
Hjortshoj and Wagaman could be key contributors next season. Wagaman started the year at setter but finished as a promising hitter. Juniors Avery Stock and Mackenzie Bussan also have one year of eligibility left.
Senior setter Madison Foster dished out seven assists. Sophomore Shelby Voeller will move into a more prominent role at setter next season, and she finished with two assists against West Marshall.
“The first year was me implementing my strategies and drills. PCM volleyball is not the sport to be in right now, and I want that to change,” Coach Samson said. “The seniors really helped with that. They wanted to practice more and continued to tell the younger girls when we had good practices and when we didn’t. They really embraced me.
“We won more games than last year and had a lot of positive energy this year. Next year, we won’t have to start from scratch again.”
And Coach Samson hopes to get Maddie Samson back in the lineup. Samson led the Mustangs with 116 kills despite missing the final six matches.
“We have quite a bit coming back so I am not terrified,” Coach Samson said. “You don’t lose five seniors every year and it will be tough to see them go.”