The Fort Dodge volleyball team has played some of the top programs in the entire state.
Tuesday night, the Dodgers faced their 11th ranked team of the year, falling to No. 3 (5A) Ankeny, 25-14, 25-12 and 25-21.
Fort Dodge (6-17 overall) played the Hawkettes (12-3) earlier this year at a tournament, but FDSH head coach Toni Cochrane liked what she saw out of her squad last night compared to the first meeting.
"We fought," Cochrane said. "We dug the ball and we played defense. Against a team like Ankeny, who you know is going to get kills, you have to try and force them into mistakes. We did a lot of that, and I liked what I saw.
"Now, we just need to do a better job of turning our defensive plays into offensive opportunities."
Ankeny, which has won five in a row, is a perennial state contender. They advanced to the 4A semifinals a year ago, the title contest in 2010, and won championships in '09 and '08. Several players are back from last year, including four that played in the state tourney.
Jaali Winters, a sophomore who played as a ninth-grader a season ago, recorded a game-high 11 kills - seven of which came in the first. Molly Wiedmier, a senior, added 10 kills and Megan Ballenger registered nine. Both Wiedmier and Ballenger had four kills in the second and third games.
Fort Dodge kept it close in the opener, tying things at 6-all before the Hawkettes reeled off eight consecutive points. Ankeny closed by scoring eight of the final nine.
The Dodgers never threatened in the second, as the Hawkettes jumped out to 9-2 and 17-9 leads before closing things on a five-point run.
In the third, however, Fort Dodge flashed signs of life after falling behind 14-6. A five-point run by the Dodgers closed the gap to 17-13, but Ankeny answered.
"When you are playing a team the quality of Ankeny, you have to force them into mistakes," Cochrane said. "We made them fight for everything in that third, we just couldn't get the points when we needed them."
Three straight Fort Dodge points made it 23-19, but the Hawks were able to close the door with another kill from Ballenger.
Ashley Altman led the Dodgers with four kills, while Jaci Cochrane, Tiana Mericle and Lexi Astor each had three. Mericle also recorded three blocks against a much-taller Ankeny front-line, while Maddie Egli registered eight assists.
Astor had 11 digs, Kari Grindberg chipped in eight and both Cochrane and Mariah Knutson finished perfect serving nights, while also scoring 19 points.
The Dodgers return to action this Saturday at the Cedar Falls Invitational.
In junior varsity action, Fort Dodge was defeated, 25-9, 25-10. The Dodger sophomores earned a win, 19-25, 25-11, 15-13; the freshman team swept, winning 25-17, 25-12, and 25-9, 25-15.