DAYTON — There are several things one could point to that represents just how good Marion Local was this season, but here’s a good place to start: Marion Local won 15 sets in a row to finish its 2012 season.
Not only that, but the Flyers won those 15 sets, spanning five matches against regional and state playoff teams.
The Flyers finished the job Saturday at Wright State University’s Nutter Center in Dayton, defeating Kidron Central Christian 3-0, with set scores of 25-20, 25-22, 25-18 to win the Division IV state championship.
This is Marion Local’s fourth state title in six years, all under coach Steininger. The Lady Flyers finish the season with a record of 25-3. The loss snaps a remarkable 24 game winning streak for Kidron Central Christian, who finishes with a 26-3 record.
It’s the 99th state championship for the Midwest Athletic Conference.
“You watch all of the older players when you’re young and you get so inspired,” Marion Local senior Brianna Hess said. “You’re in seventh grade, and you see all that they’re accomplishing. Then you get to high school, and you’re so happy that you made varsity and so happy that you have the chance to play on this team. It just feels great to do this.”
Marion Local started by maintaining a consistent lead over Central Christian in the first set. The Comets were fighting throughout the set to even the score, but were unable to ever shrink the deficit to less than two points. They were also never behind by more than five.
The second set was the defining one of the match. After losing a close first set, Central Christian made a statement by getting a quick 5-2 advantage. Then, the Comets kept scoring, extending the lead all the way to 11-2. As the Flyers clawed their way back, the Comets were able to keep the deficit where it was. The lead reached double digits when the score made it to 14-4, and the match appeared to be headed toward a third set with a 1-1 tie.
With the score at 17-7, Marion Local coach Amy Steininger called her final timeout and rallied her girls. She would later go on to say she hadn’t realized the deficit had reached such a large number so early.
“I told our girls that we could come back,” Steininger said. “They score one, we score three or four. I wanted to score in bunches, side out and get the serve.”
The Flyers came out of that timeout and rallied for nine-straight points. A team that started the set offbalance and rushed, was now setting up its offense and taking advantage of a Central Christian team that was getting visibly exhausted from trying to keep a lead that had suddenly closed on them. Marion Local finally took a permanent lead at 20-18, capping off a 13-2 run.
“We’ve been in positions like that before, so we knew what was possible if we would play smart and execute,” Hannah Arling said. “If we play hard and swing hard, good things happen, so we just focused on little things and made smart decisions.”
Despite having the biggest margin of victory, the third and final set was the closest of the match. The two teams remained within one point of each other all the way through the first 12 points. The first three-plus point lead didn’t come until Marion Local gained a 17-14 advantage. That is when the Flyers took control for the rest of the match to clinch the sweep and the state title.
The 15 consecutive sets Marion Local won to finish the year began in set two of the district final game against St. Henry, which just happened to be senior Josie Winner’s first set since returning from an ankle injury that sidelined her for the entire regular season. Winner was a 2011 All-Ohioan and has signed to continue her volleyball career at Eastern Illinois.
“Everyone was always there for me this season,” Winner said. “Coach told me when I got hurt that everything happens for a reason, and I guess we found out the reason today.”
“I said ‘If you have to sit out the entire regular season due to an injury, maybe it’s so you can come back and win a state championship.’ I thought that this happening would make her hungrier and make the other players step up, and that’s what happened,” Steininger said.
Winner finished the game with 7 kills and 10 digs.
Senior Claire Heitkamp led the Flyers with a game-high 16 kills. Senior Arling finished with a team-high 34 assists along with 11 digs, while junior Megan Wendel made plays throughout the match defensively to finish with 17 digs. Brianna Hess also had 10 digs.