Marion volleyball is having a moment right now.
Finishing the regular year 27-3, the Warriors head into the postseason with tremendous momentum and unprecedented confidence.
The high school volleyball season is short, beginning in early September and ending in late October. In that time, though, the Warriors have grown as a team and as individuals.
First-year head coach Brea Campbell has been the catalyst for this growth. She brings an intensity that has made a difference in getting the Warriors to jump a little higher, hit a little harder, focus a little better, and the result has been a dominant season.
“We’re getting the job done,” Campbell said.
The Warriors clinched the Heart of America league title last week, finishing with a perfect 9-0 record. With the HOA tournament Saturday, the Warriors look to back up that perfect campaign with a tournament championship at home.
It won’t be easy.
“Pretty much everyone we play has the target on our back since we’re undefeated right now in league,” senior setter Kirsten Hansen said.
For a team with a target on its back, the Warriors don’t leave an imposing first impression. To be frank, they’re short.
“It’s kinda nice, coming in, people are like, ‘Wait a minute,’” Campbell said. “You surprise people, then you get that advantage.”
Marissa Jacobson, 5-foot-9 is the only player in the Warriors’ rotation taller than 5-foot-8. Campbell said her girls overcome this with one word: vertical.
“Every single one of my hitters has a great vertical,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how tall you are as long as you can get up there. They can. They can put down with the best of them.”
Shelby Felvus, the team’s top outside hitter, is listed at 5-foot-3. Her 28-inch vertical puts her at 7-foot-7, though, plus reach.
“Shelby’s hitting has gotten like five times better,” Hansen said.
Jacobson has been instrumental in the Warriors’ run this season as well, providing a steady presence at middle blocker.
“She’s an animal. She’s gotten so much better throughout the season,” Campbell said. “It’s incredible, her confidence has just gone up, and she knows that, too, which is awesome.”
Jacobson assessed her own growth similarly.
“My hits are a lot harder this year, and I’m better about playing smart and placing my hits and my tips,” she said.
While Jacobson, Felvus, and sophomore standout Kourtney Hansen have played big, the team’s foundation lies in its six seniors: Emily Schneider, Kirsten Hansen, Bailey Robson, Marshelle Mermis, Elizabeth Meyer, and Erika Hess.
“Kourtney, Shelby, and Marissa are playing really well for us seniors,” Kirsten Hansen said. “They know this is a very good year — we could possibly get to state, so they’re giving it their all.”
Hansen was not bashful when asked if state is on the team’s mind.
“It’s in everybody’s mind,” she said. “It’s always there.”
Robson and Mermis have taken major roles in the rotation at right-side hitter and middle, respectively. Kirsten Hansen said their contributions were crucial to the team’s success.
Hansen also thanked former coach Brady Hudson, who she said developed the Warriors a lot in his one year with the team.
Campbell corroborated the notion, saying she inherited a great product.
“They already knew what they needed to do, they just needed tweaking,” she said. “I got really lucky coming in and getting to coach these girls because they’re just awesome.”
It took time, she said, but she’s built a strong relationship with the team.
“At the beginning of the year it was just kind of off-kilter,” she said. “They didn’t know me, I didn’t know them, they didn’t know how I was gonna coach. They had to kind of get used to my coaching style.”
Campbell admitted to having an intense coaching style.
“I tell them: It’s just passion,” she said. “I love the game, I love volleyball, and I hate when they’re not playing to their best ability.”
Jacobson said the effect has been a positive one.
“It makes us push harder because we want a better record than last year,” she said. “Especially with how she coaches us, it pushes us.”
The only question left is how far it will push them. Looming in a potential postseason match is Southeast of Saline, a team that gave Marion one of its three losses and last year ended its season at substate.
Kirsten Hansen said they’re not the only threat, as all teams in Marion’s substate are dangerous.
“There’s no bad team in our substate, I don’t think, at all,” she said. “If we make it out of there, we could be very competitive at state.”
Don’t mistake her praise of opponents for a lack of confidence, though.
“We can compete with anybody, as long as we can believe,” she said. “We have the talent, now it’s just our job to do it.”