A slow start to the volleyball season is a thing of the past after the Marion High School Lady Warriors won four matches Saturday, before losing to Berean Academy in the championship match of the Centre High School Invitational.
One of those match victories in pool play came against Berean Academy, who the Lady Warriors defeated earlier in the week in two games on Sept. 6.
Marion tuned up for the rematch with Berean by taking care of Hope, 25-14 and 25-12, and White City, 25-17 and 26-6, in the first two matches of the day. Whitney Gordon scored 13 kills in the two matches, followed by Briana Hall with 7.
Marion forged a comfortable cushion extending to 5 points in the first game, with a Hall kill thwarting a minor Berean rally for a 25-21 win.
Berean dominated the second game of the match, racing out to a 9-2 advantage and then coasting to the win, 25-13.
Marion started slowly in the final game of the match, falling behind 4-1. But with a rotation featuring Montana Percell as server, the Lady Warriors reeled off 7 consecutive points. Marion briefly relinquished the lead at 13-14, but put on a second surge to win the game, 25-19. Marion finished first in their pool with a 3-0 match record.
Marion squared off against Little River in a semifinal match, gradually pulling away to win the first game, 25-19. The second game was hotly contested, with the score tied 13 times throughout the contest. Marion didn’t edge ahead for good until 23-22, and advanced 25-22 to a rematch with Berean in the final.
Smarting from two losses to Marion in five days, Berean’s all-tournament team players Makayla Ladwig and Mallory Zuercher took command early in the final. A 16-7 run secured a first-game victory for Berean, 25-14.
Fortunes were reversed early in the second game, as Marion forged to a 16-8 lead, prompting Berean coach Amy Vogt to call a timeout to regroup.
The strategy worked, as Berean went on an 8-1 run to tie the score, 17-17. When Berean edged ahead 23-19, Marion coach Jim Versch countered with a timeout.
Marion reeled off 4 consecutive points to tie the match, 23-23, and the teams traded points back and forth until a Gordon kill attempt sailed wide, giving Berean a 28-26 win and first place in the tournament.
While Versch was disappointed his team came up short in the final, their play was an encouraging turning point.
“Like I told them, we started 0-5, so coming out and getting four matches was really good,” Versch said.
Another aspect of the Lady Warriors’ performance Versch acknowledged was a more consistent level of play for most of the tournament.
“It’s part of what we talked about all day,” Versch said. “Don’t play to their level – play Marion volleyball.”
Marion displayed resilience in several games that had been lacking in the stretch of early-season losses, which Versch attributed to two emerging floor leaders.
“I have a couple of seniors that are really stirring it up to get the spirit going,” Versch said, referring to Annie Whitaker and Gordon.
Two Lady Warriors, Gordon and Kaelyn Thierolf, were named to the all-tournament team at the conclusion of the event. Beka Basore of Centre, Kristin Waters of Little River, and Ludwig and Zuercher were also named to the team.
The Lady Warriors returned to action Tuesday night in a quadrangular against Inman, Moundridge, and host Bennington.