Maria Stein Marion Local wins battle of state’s No. 1 ranked small school teams; Flyers first in MAC

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Marion Local 3, Versailles 1
Marion Local had a game plan for Versailles Thursday and it worked to perfection. Flyers coach Amy Steininger wanted her team to be aggressive in the service game, they were and it kept the Tigers off balance spearheading Marion to a 25-21, 19-25, 25-16 and 25-21 win in a highly anticipated match up of the state’s top two small school programs. Marion is No. 1 in D-IV, while Versailles is No. 1 in D-III. Both were undefeated.


VERSAILLES – Marion Local had a game plan for Versailles Thursday and it worked to perfection.

Flyers coach Amy Steininger wanted her team to be aggressive in the service game, they were and it kept the Tigers off balance the entire night spearheading Marion to a 25-21, 19-25, 25-16 and 25-21 win in a highly anticipated match up of the state’s top two small school programs. Marion is No. 1 in D-IV, while Versailles is No. 1 in D-II. Both were undefeated.

“Versailles is very tough to beat,” Steininger said. “We had to take our chances. We started out serving tough and our serving was really tough the entire night. We had nine aces and only three errors and I think that helped take them out their game.”

The aggressive serves seemed to frustrate the Tigers were who unable to transition quickly from defense to offense. But even more importantly the Flyers managed a number of easy points.

“Marion is a fantastic team and we made some errors in critical situations, but I am not going to make any excuses,” Versailles coach Jeremy Riley said. “I think what both teams showed was that they can step up and this is only going to make us better.”

At times it was clear why Stieninger had drilled the importance of the service game into her team. With the hitting trio of Justine Raterman, Emily Bohman and Megan Campbell, the Tigers can be almost unstoppable on offense if given the opportunity.

The trio combined for 35 kills, but Marion had just enough of an answer with Abby Niekamp, Megan Barhorst and freshman Alyssa Winner, who played beyond her years.

“In a pressure situation she (Winner) played really well for a freshman and really showed her talents,” Steininger said.

With the service game on and some frustration building for the Tigers, Marion took Game 1 despite falling behind early.

Versailles took a 5-2 advantage at the start when the Flyers were unable to dictate tempo. Raterman led the charge. The senior all-state player recorded five kills early on.

But after that it was all Marion. The Flyers settled in and shifted the pressure to the Tigers. They tied the game at 15-15 and then outscored Versailles 10-6, winning the first game 25-21.

Versailles responded in Game 2.

Turning to Bohman and Campbell, the Tigers took over the net once again. With the pass defense returning to form, Versailles was able to transition quickly and rain down kills on the Flyers. Mixing in Bohman from the corner and Campbell in the middle Versailles took an 18-14 advantage and never looked back. The Tigers knotted the match at 1-1 with a 25-19 Game 2 victory.

In the crucial Game 3, Marion stormed out of the gate and again it was the service game that made the difference. In a battle to control tempo, the Flyers got it back thanks to Barhorst. The senior opened things up with four consecutive service points and it was 4-1 Marion.

The hole only got deeper for Versailles as the Flyers took an 8-2 advantage and never slowed down. Despite a few minor surges from the Tigers, Marion won the third game 26-16.

Sitting just one win away from taking the upper hand in the MAC race, the Flyers came out and finished off the Tigers.

Versailles made the first run in Game 4 and took a 14-12 advantage, but it didn’t hold. The Flyers stormed back to go up 18-16 and eventually won 25-21.

“Marion is a fantastic team and we made some errors in critical situations, but I am not going to make any excuses,” Versailles coach Jeremy Riley said. “I think what both teams showed was that they can step up and this is only going to make us better.”

Said Steininger: “Versailles will certainly have a great tournament run ahead of them and we have tremendous respect for them as a team.”

Others are saying the same about Marion.

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