Monday, November 16th, 2009
Flyers volleyball fans have put in the miles
By Randy Bruns
FAIRBORN - Notes and quotes from Saturday's Division IV state volleyball final…
Flyer fans rack up the miles and bring the noise
Marion Local's volleyball success over the past three years has been great for the trophy case, but perhaps a little tough on the wallet. Die-hard Flyer fans who have followed the volleyball team throughout its tournament trail the past three years - and there are plenty of them - have gotten some heavy use out of their family vehicles.
From 2007 through the tourney that just ended, Marion has played in relatively close venues (five times in New Bremen and four times in Coldwater) but has also had plenty of road trips (four times in Elida, twice in Vandalia, and six times at the Nutter Center in Fairborn). Add it all up and it's a total of nearly 1,600 miles to see the state's finest small school volleyball squad.
And as is the case with many small schools, Marion brings a throng of fans for each tournament appearance.
"When I turned in the presale on Thursday evening for the semifinal game, the lady that reconciled the tickets said that was far and away the largest presale they had to that point," said Marion Local athletic director Stan Wilker. "I guess all you have to do is look at the stands, but I didn't appreciate it until after the finals when I went down on the floor. I looked up and saw just a sea of blue and gold, and the girls pick up on that, too. I wouldn't say that it's a unique thing in this area, but it's a great thing for the kids."
Indeed, the kids sure seem to love the support they get.
"The fans are everything, because I could not imagine playing a game before like 20 people," said junior Kaylee Schaefer. "The fans make you want to play better and so everything is for the fans. ....Everything."
"We were so happy with the turnout at state, it was amazing," said Kaylee's cousin Megan Schaefer. "You look at some of these Division I teams that are awesome and they don't have many fans and we come in here and the stands are just filled. When they're cheering and going crazy, it just gives you an extra adrenaline rush. We're so thankful for everyone that comes to watch us because it means so much to us."
Flyers head coach Amy Steininger was also awed by the fan following.
"I think we had the most fans there of all the schools, and it was neat to have the football players there in their jerseys," said Steininger. "Then we went straight to the football game and the fans cheered for us when we walked in, and it was so special and the girls loved that. They really deserve it because they've worked so hard all year and in the offseason."
Hard work pays off
No team that wins state can do so without a tremendous amount of preparation, but many may not realize just how much the Marion Local volleyball team does behind the scenes to get ready for the season.
Almost all the girls on the team play club volleyball in the winter and spring, where they hone their skills by playing alongside and against rivals from other schools. Most of this year's squad that will continue with club won't get much of a rest, either.
"We have tryouts this weekend and next weekend for club already, so it's like non-stop," said junior Alyse Bergman.
After the club season is over the team gets down to business in the spring by starting to get in volleyball shape, and then a rugged summer schedule quickly follows.
"You start off in March or April and you do a lot of open gyms and then you go to all the summer camps," said Kaylee Schaefer. "It's almost a year-round sport because there's so much more to volleyball than just the season itself."
Once the season officially begins it's more than just 22 games, because in between are plenty of rigorous practices.
"What we see in practice is some of our best competition because we challenge each other and we don't take it easy on each other," said Rosenbeck.
"All our practices are always intense no matter what game we have coming up," said Bergman. "We have to get focused and ready for the next game."
Though the games are the most fun for the girls, according to Megan Schaefer, the whole experience is worth the effort.
"Our whole summer is basically volleyball, and then practices are usually two hours but we spend extra time there, too," said Schaefer. "It's a lot of work but it's with a whole bunch of people that you like so it's an amazing time."
After a disappointing year in 2008, Kelly Schlarman finally made her playing debut at the Nutter Center this past weekend. Schlarman was felled by an ACL tear during the regular season last year and was relegated to giving moral support during her team's tourney run.
This year Schlarman was back on the court, with only a bulky knee brace as a reminder of last year's injury. Schlarman's outside-hitter position was taken by Leah Rosenbeck last season, and Rosenbeck continued in her starter's role this season, but Schlarman still got plenty of time in the Flyer lineup. Indeed, Schlarman's key role this year was as the teams' 'stopper' who was counted on for key kills to turn around the other team's momentum.
"When Kelly goes in for me I encourage her to play well," said Rosenbeck. "Obviously last year her tearing her ACL wasn't fair so she deserves to be out there, especially with how well she does out there for us, and she's working just as hard as everyone else."
Though she undoubtedly would have loved to have seen more action, Schlarman was just as excited with her team's championship as any other player.
"It's awesome getting back to state again and I'm so proud of everyone on our team," summed up Schlarman. "We couldn't have done it without anyone. I'm glad I'm back - I know I didn't get to play all the time but it's just an honor to be on the Marion Local volleyball team."