They already toppled the defending state champions, but the Flyers’ work was far from over.
“It’s hard because St. Henry is such a rivalry for us, it doesn’t matter what the records are, it’s always a war,” Marion Local coach Amy Steininger said. “After that win (district final), you definitely worry about a letdown but I told the girls ‘this is the regional’ and I knew Jackson Center would put up a fight tonight.”
While the Tigers fought to the end, the Flyers came away with a straight set win, 25-17, 25-15, 28-26, in the Division IV regional semifinals at Vandalia Butler High School Wednesday. Marion Local middle blocker Josie Winner and outside hitter Claire Heitkamp led the attack for the Flyers with 14 and 13 kills, respectively, despite battling illness.
“We have a couple of girls with the flu and some nagging injuries, but you’ll have that at this point in the season,” Steininger said. “We didn’t play our best but, at this point, you just want to survive.”
Despite dropping the opening set, the Tigers quickly wrestled the momentum away from the Flyers as Jackson Center jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second set.
“We’ve been doing that all season, we go down 5-1, 6-2, 7-3 and I call my usual timeout,” Steininger said.
It was a well-spent timeout as Heitkamp sparked an 8-1 run with three aces. Marion Local took a 9-6 lead and never trailed again in the set.
The hole was much deeper in the third set as the Flyers trailed 9-17 but battled back to even, 18-18, on a kill by outside hitter Gina Kramer. Six lead changes and eight tie scores later, the Flyers took the marathon set 28-26.
“I’m very proud of the girls for coming back,” Steininger said. “We’re pumped up, we’re very excited to be in the finals.”
The Flyers will face a familiar foe in the regional final in Fort Loramie. The Redskins, making their fifth consecutive regional appearance, handed Lehman Catholic a 25-17, 25-22, 25-14 loss in the late semifinal Wednesday. Even Fort Loramie coach John Rodgers was stunned by his Redskins speedy win.
“I filled out lineup cards for five sets,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers stressed one thing to his players before the match – play Redskins volleyball.
“Our style of volleyball is speed, quickness and attack, attack, attack,” he said.
Outside hitters Darian Rose and Kelly Turner each pounded in 12 kills and Turner added three aces in the winning effort. Even when the Cavaliers rallied, the Redskins had an answer.
“The girls have good chemistry, they don’t get rattled,” Rodgers said. “I’m basically just a cheerleader on the sideline, helping them stay focused.”
A state berth is on the line when Marion Local, 23-3, and Fort Loramie, 23-4, face off Saturday in the regional final. The Flyers won the regular season contest between the two teams in four sets.