With five starters returning, the Marion volleyball team will look to use last year?s successes as a catalyst for accomplishments this season.
The Warriors hope to build on a 28-9 record a year ago. Marion rattled off eight wins to start the season, and as the year progressed, defeated the likes of Ben?ning?ton, Southeast of Saline and Moundridge.
Marion was seeded fifth in the Heart of America league tournament, and went 3-2 to claim third. The season ended with a disappointing, two-set sub-state quarterfinal loss to Southeast of Saline, whom the Warriors had defeated just a month prior.
The Warriors will seek to build on last year?s foundation, but they will do so under the guidance of a new coach?Marion?s second in as many years.
First-year coach Brea Campbell is a native of Salina. She played volleyball at Salina South. Upon graduation in 2010, she went to Fort Hays State University, where a shoulder injury prevented her from playing ball.
She graduated last May with a degree in biology secondary education, and is teaching high school biology, physical science and chemistry at Marion.
Campbell is excited for this coaching opportunity.
?This is obviously my first year at Marion, so I didn?t know really what to expect coming here because I hadn?t heard anything about them,? she said.
?Then I came here and I was really surprised about the talent we have on our team. I really do have some high hopes for this team because they just do what I tell them to do and they work on fixing it until they drop.?
Marion graduated Julia Hall, an all-league honorable mention pick, and Sam Davies, but Campbell is confident she has players ready to fill roles this season.
?I don?t know (Julia and Sam), and I don?t know how they played or anything like that, but I know that I have girls that are really wanting to come in and replace them, and I think they totally can,? she said. ?I think we?ve been working so hard that they?ll do that successfully.?
With a solid foundation of returners, Campbell has a number of weapons at her disposal.
Kirsten Hansen returns for her senior campaign. The 5-foot, 4-inch setter was a first-team, all-league selection a year ago. She missed the season opener while recovering from a knee injury sustained in basketball the previous March, but re-established herself as the season went on.
?(Kirsten?s) ready to go,? Campbell said. ?I think she?s probably the most excited one out there. She wants to make up for all the time that she missed last year, and she?s really pulled ahead in leadership, too, along with her sister Kourtney. They?ve done a really good job on the court. Her setting is improved even from the summer when I worked with her.?
Kourtney Hansen, a 5-7 sophomore, returns as a starter. The younger Hansen brings experience as a left-side hitter and setter.
Two juniors return as starting attackers: middle hitter Marissa Jacobson (5-8) and left-side hitter Shelby Felvus (5-3).
Marion returns three more letter-winners: seniors Marshelle Mermis, a 5-8 middle hitter, and Bailey Robson, a 5-6 right-side hitter; and junior Falon Craw?ford, a 5-5 right-side hitter.
While not having great height, the Warriors have a strong corps of attackers.
?We?re not very tall, but their verticals make up for it,? Campbell said. ?They can get up there and just pound the ball, and it?s awesome.?
Marion?s fifth returning starter, senior libero Erika Hess (5-5), will anchor the team defensively. Joining her on the back row is letter-winner Emily Schneider, a 5-4 senior.
?I expect some pretty good things (from Erika and Emily),? Campbell said. ?I?ve told them all summer that they?re the bosses of the back row, so they?ve got to learn to really take over instead of counting on their teammates to make that good pass. Both of them have been really working on trying to step up that part of the libero position.?
Completing the varsity roster is senior middle hitter Elizabeth Meyer.
Campbell said hitting is Marion?s biggest strength, while serve-receive, although ?pretty good,? is still a work in progress.
Campbell admitted she is still getting to know the Heart of America league. She said Hutchinson Trinity should be near the top and expects the Warriors to finish among the top three.
Additional tough non-league opponents to watch include Southeast of Saline, who ranks seventh in Class 3A in the preseason rankings, and top-ranked Hillsboro, she said.
Campbell?s goals for her team include maintaining a positive attitude on the court and sustaining a long post-season run.
?My biggest goal, actually, is just the positivity,? she said. ?I want to completely eliminate them getting down on themselves.
?Our goal, ultimately, is to make it to state. I know that?s a long ways away, and we have a lot to do before then, but ultimately that?s our goal.
?I think they want to do better than last year,? Campbell said. ?I know that they want to go further than taking their loss at first round of sub-state, and I think they have the mentality to do it. They?ve just got to keep pushing themselves to get just a little bit better every single day.?