By Randy Bruns
MARIA STEIN -- It wasn't a poker game, but the Marion Local Flyers had aces aplenty on Thursday night when the Parkway Panthers came calling for a Midwest Athletic Conference volleyball matchup at the Hangar.
The Flyers drilled 21 aces overall, including 14 from Kelsey Schaefer, in a 25-16, 25-19, 23-25, 25-20 decision over the Panthers.
"We had a pretty good serving night," said Marion coach Amy Kucharski in a classic understatement. "We wanted to come out and serve aggressively, but they did it right back to us. We played just well enough in serve receive to get our offense going."
Parkway coach Todd Henkle thought his team was ready for Marion's service game, but things went south in a hurry.
"I'm kind of disappointed because we knew what to expect," said Henkle. "We changed our serve receive pattern just for Marion but we just lacked the confidence to step in there and pass the ball. We've got a pretty good jump server ourselves and we see that in practice, so I think it was just a little bit of nerves playing away from home." After the Flyers cruised to a win in game one, Schaefer started things out right for the hosts in the second game. The senior banged seven consecutive jump-serve aces to start the game, giving the Flyers a lead they would need, as the Panthers hung tough.
Four service points from Deidre Adams drew the visitors within two at 19-17, but the rally fell short when Marion's Jenna Barhorst served up three straight points and Stephanie Brunswick ended the game with a kill.
The third game initially looked like more of the same, as Schaefer drilled three straight aces to help give the Flyers an early 6-1 lead.
Things tightened up from there, though, and the Flyers held just a 21-17 lead after a Kelly Pleiman ace forced Henkle to spend a timeout.
Whatever was said during the break apparently worked, as the Panthers got the serve back and Adams proceeded to serve six straight winners to put her team at game point.
The Flyers drew within one to get the serve back, but after a marathon rally a kill attempt went long to give the Panthers the win.
The final game was a back-and-forth affair, as the two teams traded leads until a Maria Moeller kill gave the Flyers the lead for good at 13-12. The Panthers stayed close, but Schaefer's final ace gave the hosts a 22-18 lead, and a few serves later, Barhorst closed the door with a kill.
Parkway's Rebekah Roehm led all hitters on the night with 16 kills. Marion got a more balanced effort, as five hitters registered five or more kills, with Barhorst and Schaefer leading the way with 14 and 10 kills, respectively.
After the game, Kucharski credited that balance to the effort of senior setter Abby Schulte.
"I thought Abby had one of her better setting matches," said Kucharski.
"She set the right side, middle, and left side to give us a really balanced attack. I told the girls that we have a nice offense with a nice setter, and we just need to be able to get her the ball."
Parkway, now 6-2 on the year and 1-2 in the MAC, will travel to Lima Saturday for the Bath Invitational. Marion, 7-1 overall and 2-1 in the league, will head south Saturday to participate in the Troy Invitational.