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Friday, October 26th, 2012

Flyers take down Redskins in four games

Division IV District Volleyball at Van Wert

By Randy Bruns

Marion Local's Hannah Heitbrink, 5, celebrates with Clara Wuebker, 2, and Hannah. . .

VAN WERT - It's almost as inevitable as death and taxes that St. Henry and Marion Local are going to meet in tournament volleyball action.
In fact, the only times these two powers haven't had a postseason collision in the past 13 years was when St. Henry was bumped up to Division III in 2007 and 2008. Although Marion Local holds a 6-4 tournament advantage in the previous 10 matchups, the Flyers still trail St. Henry in state championships by a 7 to 3 margin.
Thus, there was plenty at stake in the Cougars' Den on Thursday night when the Redskins and Flyers hooked up in the Division IV district final in front of a large and boisterous crowd.
Marion Local endured a miserable first-game loss (15-25), but the Flyers rebounded in a big way by winning the next three games - 25-19, 25-20 and 25-18 - to knock the defending D-IV state champions out of the postseason.
The Flyers (22-3) now advance to the regional tournament for the fifth time in the last six years and will take on the winner of Jackson Center and Cincinnati Seven Hills (playing on Saturday) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Vandalia Butler's Student Activities Center.
The first game started badly for the Flyers and ended even worse, as the Redskins (23-4) poured it on with a multi-faceted attack. The Redskins went on an 8-1 run to take a 10-3 early lead and the Flyers never recovered. Hampered in part by five service errors, the Flyers scored consecutive points just twice the rest of the way. The Redskins, meanwhile, got at least three kills each from Taylor Clune, Sam Thobe and Ally Mikesell to win the first game.
"The first set was like the perfect storm for us," commented St. Henry's coach Diana Kramer. "We were playing extremely well and they were making every mistake that they could possibly make. With those two things combined, things were looking very bright for us."
The second game was more of what the folks in attendance were used to seeing from these two rival schools. Neither team could build a lead of more than four as the Flyers and Redskins battled through 11 ties, before Marion Local finally got a boost from a recent addition to the lineup. Josie Winner, who was injured in late August and made a part-time return in Tuesday's semifinal, blasted a kill to knot the score at 18-apiece and then teamed with Hannah Arling for a combined stuff block to put the Flyers in front.
Claire Heitkamp then put the Flyers on her back down the stretch by smashing a kill, registering a big termination block and then ended the game with another kill.
St. Henry charged out to a 3-0 lead in the third game, but Marion Local had four straight service winners from Clara Wuebker to take its first significant lead of the game at 11-8. St. Henry clawed to within two points on three separate occasions in the middle of the match, but Marion Local never faltered and got some big net play by Hannah Heitbrink down the stretch, including the final kill of the game.
The Redskins again pulled out to an early lead in the fourth game by going up 7-3 after an ace by Clune, but the Flyers soared back. Megan Wendel stepped to the service line and reeled off four straight winners to start an 11-2 run that put her team up 14-9. The Flyers basically held serve at the end by never letting the Redskins score more than two points in a row, and when Heitbrink sent her final kill to the floor the match was over.
Marion Local's coach Amy Steininger was relieved to see an early case of the nerves end after the Flyers were quickly dispatched in the first game.
"Without a doubt there were nerves, and the girls admitted it to me just now," said Steininger. "We weren't being the aggressors and St. Henry came out aggressive and you've got to give them credit for that because they came ready to play and they put us on our heels. After that set I didn't say too much to the girls other than 'relax, have fun, and pretend like you're in our gym playing six-on-six.'"
The Flyers got some outstanding hitting from its senior standouts as Winner led the team with 18 kills with Heitkamp contributing 16 more kills.
"Josie made a huge difference tonight," said Steininger. "She was inspirational and this was her first full game back and she played like she hadn't been off for the past two months."
Winner was proud that her contributions to the team finally came on the court instead of on the bench.
"It's been very difficult watching my teammates and friends playing and working hard in the gym every single day," admitted Winner. "Once I went out, I just had to find a different role on the team. Tonight the adrenaline got to me and really helped me step it up and play my game."
Clune and Mikesell paced the Redskins with 10 kills apiece while Thobe chipped in with 9 kills.
"We lacked some discipline and lost some of our ball control tonight," said Kramer. "But with that being said, we did everything we possibly could. Marion proved tonight why they're the number-one team in the state. We wish them the best and we hope they can bring home another state championship to the MAC (Midwest Athletic Conference)."
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