By Randy Bruns
NEW KNOXVILLE -- The scene inside Ranger Gymnasium -- "the Barn" -- said it all.
Red-clad students cheering, players hugging, parents crying, all of them chanting "M-A-C, M-A-C."
It wasn't too difficult to figure out who won the big match.
The New Knoxville Rangers defeated the Marion Local Flyers in five games Tuesday night, giving the Rangers a share of their first Midwest Athletic Conference title since 1992.
New Knoxville finished up its regular season with a 20-2 overall record, and its 8-1 MAC ledger ties it with St. Henry for the league crown. Marion fell to 17-5 on the year and 7-2 in league play. The setting was like a tournament atmosphere, with fans of both teams nearly filling the bleachers. Thus, it was only fitting that a match of this magnitude would go the distance. Both teams won two games each in dominating fashion, setting the stage for a real "Barn"-burner in the fifth game.
Marion came out strong and scored the first three points of the deciding game, but New Knoxville hung right in. The visitors still held a three-point lead at 10-7 before the hosts scored three straight to tie things up. Marion then scored two in a row to force New Knoxville to take its last timeout.
Whatever coach Jenny Fledderjohann said during the break certainly did the trick.
Gina Bambauer and Nicole Wright each tallied kills to tie things up and suddenly the pressure was back on the Flyers. After a Flyer hitting error, Wright scored on a stuff block and when a Flyer kill attempt went into the net the celebration began.
"When we won the first game and they won the second I thought 'Here we go'," said Fledderjohann. "Marion's a great team and we were just able to outlast them and do some key things at the right time."
The Rangers got out the blocks quickly to start the match, as they rolled up an 8-1 lead before the Flyers started chipping away. The visitors got to within four at 18-14 before the Rangers poured it on, as junior Alycia Niemeyer pounded a pair of kills to give the hosts a 25-17 win.
Marion turned the tables in the second game, as it jumped out to a 9-3 lead before the teams started trading points. Up 16-10, Marion then scored nine of the next 12 points to take the game 25-13.
Game three was close early on, but the Rangers used a mid-game run to take control. Up just 13-12 at one point, they got four kills from Wright down the stretch and went on to a 25-19 victory.
The Flyers countered in the fourth game with a mid-game push of their own. With the score tied at 14-apiece, the visitors scored seven of the next eight points to take a commanding 21-15 lead. The Rangers later got two straight aces from Niemeyer to pull within four at 23-19, but the lead was too much to overcome and the Flyers took the game 25-21.
The fact that Marion took the match to five games is a tribute to (Continued from page 1B)
their toughness considering the circumstances under which they played. Two-time all state middle hitter Jenna Barhorst was hobbled with a bum ankle and finally sat out for good in the fourth game, and serving specialist Danielle Langenkamp injured her knee in the first game.
"Jenna tried to play but she was just hurting too much," said Marion coach Amy Steininger. "We really missed both girls out there and I was proud of the girls for fighting through adversity and taking the match to five games. New Knoxville definitely earned the win, but we've got to regroup and focus on the tournament."
Both squads will now participate in what has become a brutal sectional tournament at New Bremen. Marion will face New Bremen in Saturday's second game, with a chance to face St. Henry on Tuesday. New Knoxville, which got the top seed, will play on Tuesday against the winner of Saturday's match between Fort Recovery and Minster.