Ohio’s best fall sports program? Try Marion Local Volleyball


Marion Local won its third straight D-IV state title Saturday. ML is 81-4 the last three years. (Photo by Nick Falzerano)

Maria Stein Marion Local defended its Division IV state volleyball title Saturday with a
convincing win over Norwalk St. Paul at the Nutter Center. In doing so the Flyers finished 28-0, won their third straight state title and established themselves as Ohio’s premier fall sports program…their resume is ridiculous – and expanding.

For any fall sports program claiming to be the best in the state – regardless of sport – here’s the criteria you have to beat:

– You must have won your third straight state title this year;

– You must have finished the season ranked No. 1 in the final state poll – and you must have held that spot all season;

– You must have over 50-percent of your starters named All-Ohio;

– You must be led by the Coach of the Year in your sport;

– And you must have finished the season undefeated at the varsity and reserve levels. Your freshman team is only allowed two losses or less.

If you can beat those – you can beat the resume put together by the Marion Local volleyball program. So far this year, though, no one’s been able to beat the Flyers.

Didn’t happen Saturday either.

Marion Local claimed its third straight Division IV state title with a convincing 25-17, 20-25, 25-10, 25-13 victory over Norwalk St. Paul at Wright State’s Nutter Center.

The match – which featured teams that have claimed the last four state titles – was never seriously in doubt.

After dropping the second set – which was just their fifth this season out of 84 played – the Flyers responded by winning 50 of the next 73 points and extended their stay as state champions.

Another thing that’s not in doubt is Marion Local’s standing as the state’s premier fall program – regardless of sport or gender.

Sure arguments can be made, but they end where the sign says “Welcome to Maria Stein.”

Over the last three years, ML is 81-4 at the varsity level. This year they ended 28-0. At all levels combined – varsity, reserve and freshmen – the Flyers have now lost a total of 13 games in 36 months.

This season the seventh and eighth grade teams both won Midwest Athletic Conference championships.

Last year the Flyers had 33 girls try out for a seventh-grade team that has 15 roster spots. This year the numbers were comparable.

It’s easy to see why everyone wants to be a part of something so special.

“I just saw one of the little seventh-graders crying her eyes out after we won,” ML head coach Amy Steininger said. “It’s emotional for those girls too. They want to be sitting up here too someday and we try to keep the tradition going and keep it challenging from the seventh-grade up to the varsity. We care and that’s where it starts – with those little ones.”

When Steininger started at ML in 2003, she inherited a program coming off a 26-3 season and a state runner-up finish. The Flyers first trip to state ended with a loss to St. Paul.

A Vandalia-Butler grad who was an assistant for the Aviators, Steininger and the Flyers lost to eventual state finalists in the postseason her first three years (St. Henry twice and Lehman Catholic). After attaining the No. 1 ranking in the final 2006 state poll, ML lost its first tournament game to St. Henry.

Since then the Flyers have won 21 postseason games in a row.

Said Steininger, whose career record is now 161-27: “It’s just hard to phathom what these girls have accomplished.”

And it’s not over – by any means.

Although the Flyers will lose four seniors and two All-Ohioans off of this year’s team – Shelby Moeller and Ashley Lochtefeld – they will return four starters and two other All-Ohioans in juniors Alyssa Winner (first team) and Alyse Bergman (third team).

Overall, 11 of the Flyers 15 players on their state championship roster return.

In all probability, so too will another state title.

“Every year there is such a strong tradition and you just want to keep carrying it on,” senior Megan Schaefer said. “You’re so proud to be a Flyer.”

Added Lochtefeld: “It really can’t get any better.”

It doesn’t.

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