By Mark Ruschau
NEW BREMEN -- As most area volleyball fans know, the Division IV sectional at New Bremen is considered one of the toughest in the state, regardless of division.
Thursday night the Marion Local Flyers escaped the vigorous sectional as they beat up the number-one seeded New Knoxville Rangers, 19-25, 25-17, 25-15, 25-15 in the semifinal of the district.
With the win, Marion Local, winner of 17 of its last 18 matches, improves to 21-5 while New Knoxville bows out of the tournament at 22-3.
Marion Local will now play the Crestview Knights Saturday afternoon for the district championship at 4 p.m. at Coldwater High School.
The Flyers' domination of the tournament can be seen in the scores of the games, Marion Local won nine of 10 games, with those nine wins coming at an average margin of nearly seven points a game. "To come out of this sectional makes us very happy and very proud," said Marion Local coach Amy Steininger. "I thought we picked up our defense in each of the three games we played here at New Bremen and that was what really did it for us.
"We have picked up our level of play since the end of the season," continued Steininger. "This is a new season for us and that's the way we're looking at things, since we lost our last match of the season against New Knoxville."
The Flyers indeed used a great defensive effort to rally from their one-game hole against the Rangers.
In the opening game, New Knoxville dominated play, especially at the net as the Rangers recorded 16 kills. Nicole Wright led the way for the Rangers with nine kills and teammate Alycia Niemeyer chipped in five more.
Marion Local also had a sloppy first game as it committed four hitting errors, a pair of service errors, a four-hit violation and a net violation.
Marion Local came right back and dominated play at the net and took advantage of sloppy New Knoxville play to tie the match in game two. The Flyers recorded six blocks and limited Niemeyer and Wright to nine kills between the all-Midwest Athletic Conference duo.
The Flyers were the beneficiary of sloppy play as New Knoxville had five hitting errors and four service errors.
"We came out and did exactly what we wanted to do in the first game," said New Knoxville coach Jenny Fledderjohann. "We lost our momentum after the first game and they came out and blocked well and played great defense. The better team won tonight."
With its defense clicking, Marion Local got its hitting game going in the final two games to complete the rout.
In the final two games, the Flyers recorded 26 kills and seven blocks. Stephanie Brunswick had nine kills in the last two games and 13 for the match.
"We adjusted to their middle hitters a little bit better because they kept hurting us in the corner," said Steininger. "In the last two games we adjusted by pulling people out of the middle to help in the corners to stop those shots.
"I thought our blocking was outstanding," continued Steininger. "We knew they were going to go to Nicole Wright and Alycia Niemeyer a lot and we did a good job of picking up our blocking."
"Our key this season was that we were able to outlast people defensively and keep attacking," said Fledderjohann. "Tonight they outlasted us and they got the momentum, went with it and won the match."