Marion Local defends Division IV state title; Flyers start talk of dynasty


Marion Local defended its D-IV state title Saturday with a four-set win over Jackson Center. (Photo By Nick Falzerano)

None of the folding chairs in the interview room at Wright State
University’s Nutter Center have Amy Steininger’s name on them but one

The Maria Stein Marion Local volleyball coach is going to be back.

None of the folding chairs in the interview room at Wright State University’s Nutter Center have Amy Steininger’s name on them but one should.

The Maria Stein Marion Local volleyball coach is going to be back.

Saturday at the Nutter Center, Marion Local defended its Division IV state volleyball title with a four-set win (23-25, 25-18, 25-22, 25-14) over fellow Western Ohio small school stalwart Jackson Center.

Marion’s state title last year seemed inevitable. This year’s championship? Not so much.

The Flyers lost nine seniors from last season’s 28-1 team and returned three girls – including one starter – who saw action in the state tournament. So much for rebuilding.

“It’s amazing to think that we won this year with a different group,” Steininger said. “Really, this is an entirely different group. We have a different style of play, we don’t have anyone over 6-foot and we’re pretty young. We had four sophomores and a freshman starting out there.”

Strap it up D-IV. The Flyers are building a dynasty.

Long known for sustained success and state titles in football, boys basketball and girls basketball, Marion Local is now becoming a volleyball Mecca.

I know what you’re thinking – just what the Flyers need, another sport to dominate.
And they have.

Last year, the Marion Local freshman, reserve and varsity teams lost a combined one game. This year they lost 10.

At the junior high level, the eighth-grade went undefeated and the seventh-grade team had to cut 18 of the 33 girls that tried out. Class sizes at Marion Local range around 70. You do the math.

“The girls are excited about volleyball at Marion Local,” Steininger said. “We have a fifth- and sixth-grade youth league that we started and I told the girls that you have all these little junior high girls and elementary girls in the stands watching you. They see you win state two years in a row and that’s exciting. They want to be a part of it. That’s exciting for a program – to have girls want to be a part of it.”

Winning does remarkable things. And Marion Local has been good for a while.

The Flyers have been ranked in the Top 10 of the final state coaches poll each of the last 10 years. Last year Marion Local was No. 1. This year they were No. 2.

In 2000 Marion made its first trip to the state tournament. In 2002, the Flyers finished runner-up.

Since taking over, Steininger has a six-year record of 132-27.

“It was special winning that state championship last year with all those seniors and it’s that same feeling this year,” Steininger said. “So proud. Once we got that state title last year it makes you want to get back so bad. It’s not a feeling of ‘We finally did it!’ It’s more of ‘Man, I want to do that again!’ It’s a such a great feeling.”

What makes Marion’s second title even more amazing is the way it did it. Last year the Flyers relied on length and a sizeable front line (three girls over 6-foot) that included Division I recruits Megan Barhorst (Cleveland State) and Abby Niekamp (Florida State).

This year the Flyers tallest player is 5-11.

“Last year we relied more on our defense and our blocking,” senior Tara Hartings said. “This year we relied more on our offense and attacking.”

Leading that attack was sophomore Alyssa Winner.

A 5-9 flame thrower, Winner showed why she was voted first team All-Ohio this week by registering a tournament-best 57 kills in two games. Winner had 29 kills in the final.

A third team All-Ohio pick last year, Winner was the lone returning starter heading into the season. In every one of Marion’s tournament games, Winner registered over 20 kills, including 32 in a five-set win over New Bremen in the sectional final.

“She is definitely one of the best players in the state regardless of division,” Steininger said. “She can do it all. She’s just as good in the back row as she is in the front. She picked up her game tonight. She only had five hitting errors. Yesterday she had 12 and she was mad at those even though she had 28 kills. She’s kind of a perfectionist. She’s huge for us.”

The turning point for Marion this season came following its first meeting with Jackson Center, a five-set loss on its home court. The Flyers lead the game 2-0 before dropping three straight sets. Since then they’ve grown.

“Last year we thought we had a good chance of doing well and going far,” Steininger said. “This year coming in we knew we had a young team and we started off strong, but then there in September we lost to Jackson Center and that was our fist loss.

“It hurt. I remember the girls crying in the locker room and I remember telling them that the next time we played them it was going to be in the state championship game. Back then (state) seemed ions away.”

A return trip isn’t that tough to envision.

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