POTTSVILLE Nobody probably noticed that all of Marian's volleyball players wore red fingernail polish last night.
There was a reason. It was their way of dedicating the games to the wife of head coach John "Doc" Fallabel, JoAnn, who died unexpected last July 1. The Fallabels had been married 36 years when JoAnn passed away.
The gesture surely made the Fillies' three-game sweep of Pine Grove in the Schuylkill League championship finals at Martz Hall one of the sweetest ever for Coach Fallabel.
His squad whipped the Cardinals, 25-13, 25-12, and 25-8. The win keeps Marian undefeated for the season, boosting its record to 16-0.
Coach Fallabel said it was senior Rachel Krajcirik who contacted her teammates and asked them to wear the red nail polish. Every time Krajcirik served the ball, she looked skyward and pointed, gesturing they were playing for JoAnn.
Getting into the championship game wasn't as easy for Marian as winning it. In the semifinals, they needed four games to get past Pottsville.
A highlight of the night was senior Taylor Mele reaching the school record for the most career digs, an achievement which occurred in the semifinals. She got 15 digs in the first match and 11 against Pine Grove, to bring her career total to 1,052.
Coach Fallabel said winning the league title was one of two goals he set for his team. "The first was to win our division," he said. "The second was to win the league. The next goal will be to win districts. When we accomplish that, we will have other goals in life."
"The team plays such a good brand of team ball," said the coach. He praised Krajcirik, middle hitter Kathleen Reilly, and opposite hitter Marykate Sherkness for doing great jobs against the Cards, but stressed that all the players did an excellent job.
"Reilly stepped up this season," he said. "I'm so happy for her. She's been in the program for four years and I tried to work her into a starter. She's a smart, dominating middle. She's a good hitter.
Mele said she and her teammates may have taken Pottsville a little too lightly in the semifinals. She said against Pine Grove, "We were ready. We knew we had to win this one. We had to win it in three."
In the three games against Pine Grove, the Cardinals led only one time. It was in the third game when they scored the first point, leading 1-0. Marian stepped on the gas and cruised to victory.
In the opening game, Marian jumped out to a five-point lead early, but PG closed within three. Then the Fillies outpointed the Cards 12-3 to gain their 25-13 win.
Game two again saw things close early, and again the Fillies outscored Pine Grove by a 12-3 margin at the end.
Sherkness, a sophomore, is close to a season kill record. She had 17 kills against Pottsville and 25 against Pine Grove. Behind her with kills against Pine Grove was Tori Vadyak with seven, Reilly with five, and Mele with three.
Krajcirik had five aces, 19 service points, and 34 assists.
Reilly and Vadyak combined for 10 blocks.
In the semifinals, Marian won in four games, 19-25, 25-14, 25-23, and 25-8.
Pottsville led throughout most of the first game, cruising into a 24-15 lead. The Fillies looked like they might pull a stunning comeback as they rolled off four straight points before the Crimson Tide put it away.
In the second game, the Fillies erupted to a 12-3 lead and never looked back.
Game three was tough for Marian. It was a see-saw contest which saw the Fillies take a 7-5 lead, then Pottsville went ahead 9-7, and the Fillies came back and went in front, 12-10. The game kept going like this, and it was tied on 11 occasions. The last tie was 23-23. Marian's strength at the net helped gain the 25-23 victory.
It was all Marian in the fourth game.
For the match, Sherkness had 17 kills for the Fillies, while Reilly and Mele had nine each. Krajcirik provided 40 assists. Mele had 15 digs, while Sherkness and Cathleen Cataldo had 11 each. Reilly had four blocks. Sherkness and Krajcirik each had four aces.