Friday, September 20th, 2013
By Ryan Hines
Flyers win matchup of #1 teams
Marion Local's win in the opening set provides momentum for sweep
  COLDWATER - A raucous crowd provided an electric postseason-esque atmosphere when Division IV's top-ranked Marion Local Flyers visited Division III's #1 rated Coldwater Cavaliers at The Palace on Thursday.
The energetic fan bases on both sides were treated to an instant classic in the first set but only Marion Local's fans remained feverish for the entire match.
Marion Local edged Coldwater 27-25 in the opening set and then rode the momentum to 25-11 and 25-20 wins to complete a three-set sweep over their Midwest Athletic Conference rivals.
The Flyers improved to 10-0 overall and 5-0 in the MAC to set up another huge matchup next Thursday at The Hangar against St. Henry (11-2, 5-0 MAC).
"We have an experienced team that have played in some very big games over their career and our focus coming into tonight was to not get too pumped up and just play under control," said Marion Local head coach Amy Steininger. "I thought we handled the atmosphere well and played well throughout."
The first set was the highlight of the match as it featured 17 ties and a total of 10 lead changes with neither team holding more than a three-point advantage.
Coldwater's Brooke Welsch and Erika Hartings matched Marion Local's Gina Kramer and Brooke Winner kill-for-kill throughout the first set.
With the score knotted at 24-24, Coldwater took a one-point advantage after Marion Local committed a hitting error while scrambling from a tough Kelsey Rammel serve.
Kramer then blasted a kill in the middle of Coldwater's defense to tie the score before the officials had to step in and change a ruling by the back judge on the next point. Marion Local's Meg Schwieterman hit the ball down the line and it was originally ruled out but the Flyers' frustrated crowd displayed their displeasure. After the officials conversed with the back judge, it was correctly ruled a kill for Schwieterman that gave the Flyers a 26-25 advantage. Kramer then capped the opening set with a monster kill, her fifth of the evening.
"The first thing I told our girls in the locker room is that the first set was huge. It could have changed the whole outcome of the night," said Steininger. "It gave us a lot of momentum for the second set. It could have gone either way in that first set but we just kept swinging hard and good things happened."
The disappointment of losing the opening set seemed to effect the Cavaliers for the rest of the match as Marion Local took early control of the second set with a 9-2 lead and never looked back.
"I told our girls that we had to come out strong in the second set and not get complacent. I thought we did a good job of that," said Steininger.
"Losing the first game was huge for us and that's where the mental toughness needs to take over. When the game is over, it's over and you can't let it linger. We didn't get over it and we didn't battle in the second game," said Coldwater head coach Mike Etzler. "They outplayed us and out-toughed us in the second game and we just didn't step up to the challenge."
Coldwater never gave itself a chance in the second set, committing 11 errors, many of which were unforced.
"We're experienced with girls that have been on varsity for three years in our front row but they made unforced errors and that can't happen," said Etzler. "Part of it is the block and great defense by Marion but we just have to find the court. We continued to shoot ourselves in the foot and killed ourselves. All they had to do was serve it to us and then we made errors."
The Cavaliers rebounded and played better in the third set but Winner was nearly unstoppable with six of her 10 kills providing the Flyers with the spark they needed.
"I just tried to come out strong because it was pretty close in the third game," said Winner. "We have a lot of good hitters that can put the ball away and it puts pressure on the defense not knowing who is going to get the ball."
Kramer and Winner combined for 23 kills to draw praise from Steininger.
"Gina had a great night tonight. She's our go-to player and one of the best hitters in the conference. She showed that tonight with five kills in each of the first two sets," said Steininger. "When Gina rotates to the back row, Brooke plays in the front row and had a huge third set for us."
Coldwater (10-2, 3-2 MAC) must now regroup after suffering back-to-back loses when they were tabbed the top-ranked team in D-III.
"The number-one ranking is just a number and it doesn't mean anything to us. We are capable of beating Versailles and Marion Local but the thing that's holding us back is mental toughness," said Etzler. "We have to get better at the mental part of the game. There are flashes of greatness but we're not getting it done consistently. We should be upset and ticked off after this loss but tomorrow is a new day and we have to learn from this lesson and continue to work to get better."
The Cavaliers are back in action again on Saturday at the Piqua Invitational while Marion Local travels to the Mother of Mercy Invitational before Thursday's marquee MAC matchup.
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