When they came to the sideline Saturday after losing their first game 20-25 against Little River, the Marion High School volleyball team was one game away from elimination in the Centre volleyball tournament.
“We said in the huddle, ‘Girls are you ready to go home? We have to win this one or we’re on the bus,’” Marion head coach Deanna Thierolf said.
The Lady Warriors lost a heartbreaking barn-burner opening match against Herington in three games, but bounced back to defeat White City in two. They had to get past Little River, the tournament’s top seed, to advance to the semifinals.
The Lady Warriors showed they weren’t ready to go home by dominating Little River in the second game. Little River had pulled to within 3 at 8-5 when Briana Hall slammed home a kill, and Montana Percell followed with a smothering stuff at the net. Katey Ehrlich and Megan Richmond took over in the latter part of the game as Marion finished with a 15-4 run to win 25-9 and even the match.
Someone was going home after the third game. Early on it looked like it would be Marion, as the Lady Warriors quickly fell behind 7-2. They shaved the lead to two, then kills by Ehrlich and Richmond and a quick push shot by Percell fueled a 4-point run to put Marion ahead, 16-14.
Little River fought back with a 5-point run to regain the lead at 21-22, but after Hall had one kill attempt returned, she followed with a second that tied the score at 22. Tied again at 23, Kelli Hess hit a spike Little River couldn’t return, and Kaelyn Thierolf nailed down theberth in the semifinals with a crosscourt kill.
Pool B runner-up Marion squared off against Pool A winner Berean Academy in the semifinals, and this time the Lady Warriors couldn’t overcome a slow start in the first game, falling behind 1-8. Berean led by as many as 15 points as they coasted to a 25-12 win.
Marion turned the tables by jumping out to a 7-2 lead in the second game, then surrendered seven consecutive points, four on aces, to fall behind 7-9. The lead changed hands several times as the teams battled to 20-20. Berean pulled back ahead 24-21, and held off the Lady Warriors to win the game and match 25-23.
“We dug ourselves a hole I don’t know how many times,” Thierolf said. “We just have to start from the very beginning. We came out the second game and played from the very beginning, and played a lot better.”
Marion scored first in the opening game of the third-place match against Centre, but couldn’t shake the Lady Cougars, who tied the game seven times but couldn’t take the lead. Marion went ahead for good at 19-18 on a Hall kill, and Thierolf picked up another game-winning kill to close out the 25-19 win.
Marion fell behind 6-12 in the second game with four consecutive Lady Warrior miscues, but a spike by Julia Hall stopped the Centre run.
Ehrlich stepped into the server’s spot and sparked the Lady Warriors’ most dominant streak of the tournament, 14 consecutive points. By the time the demoralized Centre team regained the serve, trailing 13-21, the game was effectively over. The Lady Cougars missed on their final two scoring attempts, handing the game, 25-15, and third-place to Marion.
“I loved the girls’ fight today,” coach Thierolf said. “Toward the end of the day we were starting to get a little tired, but overall they played very well.”
Briana Hall was named to the all-tournament team, which was chosen based on player performances during pool play.
“I was very happy to see Briana make the all-tournament team at Centre. She had a great day hitting,” coach Thierolf said.
Marion had the opportunity to beat eventual tournament champion Herington in pool play, with the teams splitting two intensely-fought games with identical 28-26 scores. Herington took the match with a 25-20 win in the third game.
I was so disappointed for them, because it could have gone either way,” coach Thierolf said. “Sometimes you play your heart out and you still come up short.”
The Lady Warriors broke open a close first game against White City with an 8-point run, winning 25-15. In the second game Marion gradually and methodically built their lead, taking the match with a 25-17 win.
The Lady Warriors warmed up for the Centre tournament earlier in the week with matches against Trinity Catholic of Hutchinson and Canton-Galva in Canton.
Marion lost to Trinity Catholic 18-25 and 14-25. They defeated Canton-Galva in three games, 25-14, 21-25, and 25-18.
The Lady Warriors hosted a quadrangular meet Tuesday. USD 408 Sports and Aquatics Center will be filled again Saturday for the annual Marion Spikefest tournament.