Without the luxury of having a returning All-State player in his starting lineup for the first time in years, Marian head coach John "Doc" Fallabel knew this season would be different.
However, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Last night, it was business as usual for the Fillies, as they swept Division 3-leading Tri-Valley (11-2, 8-2) in a pivotal Schuylkill League matchup, 25-14, 25-19, 25-20.
The win keeps Marian (12-1, 10-1) just a game behind undefeated Nativity in the race for the Schuylkill League Division 4 Championship, as the two prepare for a head-to-head clash on Lawton's Hill in just two weeks.
"We played really well as a team tonight," said Fallabel. "We struggled down at Lourdes and we had a terrible week of practice, so tonight was definitely a breath of fresh air. I've been around championship teams my whole career and I know the type of mindset you need to have to succeed. We didn't have it in practice, but we certainly had it tonight."
The Fillies started off with the Lady Bulldogs in their crosshairs from the opening volley.
A nine point service run by Devin Parambo, aided by a strong front line attack of freshman outside hitter Marykate Sherkness (three kills) and middle hitter Abby Owsinski (two kills), helped stake Marian to an early 11-2 lead.
Parambo then bookmarked game one by recording an ace for the 25-14 victory.
With Marian clinging to a 20-18 lead in game two, Owsinski stepped up when her team needed her most. Following a huge block of Tri-Valley's Amber Wehry, Owsinski recorded back-to-back kills as the Marian lead swelled to 23-18, en route to the six-point victory.
"We don't have that go-to All-State player like we had in year's past, but Abby Owsinski is certainly performing like one," stated Fallabel. "Caitlin Kuhn holds the team record for hitting percentage (approximately .510) and she was a two-time All-State player. Abby is hitting well over .550 for this season she's become a real leader for this team."
For the match, Owsinski recorded 13 kills on 23 attacks (a .565 attack percentage) with no hitting errors.
The Fillies, who played with the lead for the duration of the first two games, found themselves trailing for the first time all night when Tara Zimmerman rattled off three straight service points to give Tri-Valley a 7-5 lead early in game three.
However, the Fillies persevered and answered back with a five-point run by Taylor Mele, which included two aces, to regain control of the game 14-8.
"In game one, we struggled with our passing and in games two and three, I thought we could have done a better job of running our offense," related Tri-Valley head coach Mandi Lucht. "
Executing on offense was no problem for Marian as they combined for 39 kills on the night, as opposed to Tri-Valley's 15.
Owsinski also added five blocks on the night, while Sherkness notched nine kills. Parambo accounted for 15 service points, six aces, 10 digs and seven kills, while Tori Vadyak and Sarah Connely tallied six kills apiece. Setter Rachel Krajcirik dished off 39 assists and Mele, the team's libero, recorded 28 digs.
In the JV game, Marian kept its undefeated record intact with a three-game victory, 25-23, 23-25, 25-12.