FAIRBORN – As a small school powerhouse, Maria Stein Marion Local has racked up multiple state titles in football and girls and boys basketball.
Saturday the Flyers added some gold volleyball hardware to an already established trophy case.
Using a dominating effort from the senior frontcourt foursome of Megan Barhorst, Abby Niekamp, Kristin Dirksen and Kristen Bergman, Marion Local beat defending champion Norwalk St. Paul in the Division IV state final at Wright State University’s Nutter Center 25-14, 25-22 and 25-16.
The Flyers were state semifinalists in 2000 and finished runner-up in 2002, losing to St. Paul in the final.
Niekamp, a 6-foot-4 Cleveland State recruit, had 11 blocks, while Bergman added eight. The Flyers had 16 total team blocks.
Niekamp, a 6-2 Florida State recruit, chipped in a game-high 14 kills, while Barhorst had 12.
St. Paul must have thought the standards were wrong.
“We definitely had a problem hitting into their block,” St. Paul coach Nancy Miller said. “We didn’t attack the ball as effectively as we could have but they blocked the ball extremely well tonight. Their offense was very aggressive and I think it kept us on our heels.
“It definitely was frustrating.”
“I thought our whole front line did a great job today,” Marion Local coach Amy Steininger said. “Our blocking was tremendous. We had 16 team blocks and that’s almost a season-high for us especially for a three-game match. I thought we dominated net play.”
The Flyers dominated from the first whistle.
Jumping out to a 5-1 lead in Game 1, Marion never trailed en route to the win and took the lead for good in Game 2 at 14-13.
Tied 6-6 in Game 3, the Flyers scored 14 of the next 20 points to take control (20-12).
Katie Schulze had 12 assists for Marion, while Shelby Moeller had a team-high 16. Freshman Alyssa Winner had 14 digs.
“We’re playing our best volleyball right now,” Steininger said. “We peaked at the right time. We came to state on a mission and these girls played with a vengeance. They had a goal in mind and nothing was going to stop them from reaching it.”
When asked if Marion’s blocking was the best they’d seen this season, all seven St. Paul players at the postgame press conference and Miller responded with a “yes” in unison.
“We haven’t been pushed like that,” Miller said. “Marion did an excellent job of taking us out of our game tonight.
“They are a top caliber team all the way around. Not just their middles. Their whole team is aggressive.”
Said Steininger: “We knew we outsized them at the net and we wanted to try and dominate net play with our attacking and blocking.
“We did that.”