A gutsy move paid off Aug. 28 when freshman Kirsten Hansen started in a new Warrior lineup that put up strong performances at the season-opening triangular against Hoisington and Smoky Valley.
Marion lost a hard-fought battle with Hoisington in the first match, but rallied off a weak second set to take the match from Smoky Valley in three games.
“I’m super-pleased with their hustle and never-give-up attitude,” coach Deanna Thierolf said. “I think these girls, they’ve always been that way.
“They don’t like to lose and they play hard until the end of the buzzer, and it doesn’t matter what sport they’re in. They’re going to go hard until the very end.”
Marion traveled to Hillsboro for a quadrangular with Moundridge, Southeast of Saline and the home team Thursday. The Warriors went 0-3, losing to Moundridge (25-19, 25-11), Southeast of Saline (25-16, 25-20) and Hillsboro (25-16, 25-15).
Hoisington—Marion looked shaky at first, no doubt with the majority of its young starting squad adjusting to new positions because of the late lineup changes.
But the Warriors still put up a respectable showing in the first set against Hoisington, never allowing a double-digit deficit in a 25-19 defeat.
“Kirsten (Hansen) I thought was just a little nervous, setting to the middle a lot and didn’t spread it out a lot,” coach Deanna Thierolf said about her freshman setter. “In the first match, it was the first time they’d really worked together.”
The Warriors settled down and found their rhythm in the second game, getting the early jump on Hoisington for a 10-5 lead, thanks in part to kills and blocks from the Hall duo, senior Briana and sophomore Julia.
But Hoisington rallied to trade leads with Marion and draw away briefly before the Warriors rallied to tie the game at 18-18. Hoisington again opened a margin, but back-to-back kills from Kaelyn Thierolf and Katey Ehrlich tied it at 21.
Hoisington found the edge down the stretch, earning a narrow 25-22 victory to win the game and the match.
Smoky Valley—Marion took an early lead against Smoky Valley with the triple threat of Briana Hall and Kaelyn Thierolf hitting and Julia Hall scoring with blocks at the net.
“(Julia) was crucial tonight, and that was a new place for her,” Thierolf said. “We threw her in the middle, just to see what she could do, and I tell you what, we kind of liked her there. She is quick and has the longest arms, and is quick to close the block.”
Midway through the first set Smoky Valley took a one-point lead twice, but Kaelyn Thierolf came through for Marion, scoring twice to give the Warriors and 18-17 lead.
“I thought Kaelyn had a great hitting night,” coach Thierolf said. “She hit the ball well.”
Smoky Valley tied it, 20-20, to spark three lead changes before a block from Briana Hall made it 24-22. Thierolf scored moments later for a 25-22 victory.
In Game 2, Smoky Valley used a jump serve that gave the Vikings eight unanswered points at the start.
“That’s something we’re going to have to work on,” coach Thierolf said. “That ball comes over and looks like it’s going to float and it just dives straight down. We have got to get a hold of that, step up and take that away.”
With Smoky Valley leading 12-1, Thierolf made a couple of kills but the Vikings quickly extending the margin on the way to an easy 10-25 win.
“You saw in that second game where our passes fell apart,” coach Thierolf said. “We lost our focus, we lost our concentration and even a little bit of confidence. The energy went way down.”
With remarkable composure, the Warriors walked back on the court for the final set.
Both teams swapped leads early, but a block from Thierolf gave Marion a 6-5 lead the Warriors refused to surrender.
Thierolf and Julia Hall were a scoring threat at the net, hitting and blocking left and right, with players coming off the bench to provide support.
“JayDee (Schafers) did a great job for us, coming in and handling the back-row passes,” coach Thierolf said. “Megan (Richmond) is a good back-row player for us. She played libero last year so she’s used to getting pounded.”
Marion eventually pulled and Thierolf pounded the ball off the Vikings’ hands to earn the 25-18 win and seal the match.
“It was a total team effort—all 10 girls,” Theirolf said. “Like I said, it’s a family.”
Setter Kirsten Hansen settled into her groove during the Smoky Valley match.
“In the second match, she did a really great job,” coach Thierolf said. “She didn’t play like a freshman. That’s a tough spot to jump into because you handle the ball every time. I was really pleased with her play.”
Coach Thierolf said Hansen improved as the night went on, sharing the ball and moving it around a bit better.
“She had a heck of a save on a one-arm, and that kind of sparked our girls,” coach Thierolf said.
Coming—The Warriors (1-5) will compete at Canton-Galva Tuesday before traveling to Centre Saturday for the Centre?Invitational Tournament.