Friday, August 31st, 2012
By Randy Bruns
Flyers need five to subdue Cards
NEW BREMEN - If Thursday night's Midwest Athletic Conference opener between the Marion Local Flyers and the New Bremen Cardinals was any indication of how the year will go, it's going to be a wild and wooly volleyball season.
The Flyers had their backs pinned against the wall after going down two games to one but they dug deep and took the final two sets to upend the Cardinals by scores of 22-25, 25-14, 21-25, 26-24, and 15-8.
Marion is now 2-1 overall and begins its MAC ledger with a 1-0 mark, while New Bremen falls to 1-2 on the season and 0-1 in conference play.
The tone was set by the Cardinals early in the first set when they vaulted to an 8-3 advantage. The Flyers countered and later went ahead 10-8, and from there on out things were neck and neck. The score was tied eight times in the late-going before Emily Niekamp smacked consecutive kills to give the Cardinals set point at 24-22, and an errant kill attempt by the Flyers finally ended the set.
The Flyers got a few gifts to open the second set when the first three serves from the Cardinals sailed long, helping the visitors to build a 7-2 lead. Not much changed the rest of the way, as the Flyers' bulge never fell below four points and they pulled away to an 11-point victory.
The third set was like a mirror image of the second, with the Cardinals taking a commanding lead and cruising to what looked like an easy win. Up 22-14 after an ace by Karli Jones, the hosts seemingly eased up at the finish line and the Flyers took advantage by crawling to within three at 24-21. Niekamp finally ended things with a kill, though, to give her squad a 2-1 set lead.
Set number four was easily the best of the night, with neither team able to build a lead larger than three points and the score knotted 12 separate times. Marion looked to have the edge late after Claire Heitkamp banged a kill to put the visitors up 24-21, but New Bremen rallied to force extra points thanks to a pair of kills by Julie Brown sandwiched around an ace by Niekamp. Heitkamp then threaded the needle for a kill to give Marion game point, and an ace by Hannah Arling tied the match at two games apiece.
As it typically the case with a final set to 15 points, the team with a quick start has a decided advantage, and that team on this night was the Flyers. The Cardinals' service receive game hit the skids, allowing the visitors to grab a 5-1 advantage. The hosts later pulled to within two at 7-5 but four straight service winners by Megan Wendel gave the Flyers all the cushion they would need to seal the win.
"We've had some injuries and have been doing so many different lineups in only our third game," admitted Marion's coach Amy Steininger. "We used several different lineups just tonight, and the lineup we had in the last few games really did the job."
The Flyers were led by 23 kills from Heitkamp, 11 from Gina Kramer, and 10 by Brianna Hess. Kramer and Hess were a big part of Steininger's flip-flopping rotation halfway through the match.
"We put Brianna in the front row at the right side, which is a different position for her," said Steininger. "And Gina stepped up tonight. We haven't been playing her at left side all year but she gets up so high that she can hit from the left pretty well. And Claire is Claire – she had 23 kills and that's what she does."
New Bremen's coach Theresa Jenkins saw plenty of positives from her squad but lamented its inability to finish the job.
"Our serve receive and our communication broke down," said Jenkins of her team's difficulties in the last two sets. "I have kind of a conflict going on inside of me because we are so much improved but as far as finishing and our mental game I think we have miles to go."
Victoria Wente paced the Cardinals with 14 kills, while Haley Moeller chipped in with ten.
New Bremen will play at Troy Christian in a tri-match on Saturday along with Jackson Center, while Marion gets a few days off before hosting Celina on Tuesday.
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