COAL TOWNSHIP - The Marian Fillies volleyball squad is used to being the dominating team when it comes to front line play.
Unfortunately, for them they ran into a squad last night that has been thwarting the opposition with power up front as well.
That team is the Williamson Warriors (24-0) and they showed last night in the PIAA Single A state semifinal that they are certainly a force to be reckoned with. The Warriors skill at the net could not be denied as they hung on to beat the Fillies (18-2) in the first set 25-23. The momentum from the first set win seemed to stun the Marian bunch and it carried over the rest of the match with the Warriors taking game two 25-18 and game three 25-17 to advance to the Single A State Championship.
Quite literally a big reason for Williamson's success at the net came from their length. 6-3 Lori Horton and 6-0 Kim Daughtery were the difference in the match, pounding the ball into the middle of the Marian defense throughout the night. The Fillies defense has been strong all season, but one could argue the assault put on by Horton and Daughtery would have been tough for any team to handle.
"They really hurt us from everywhere. They killed us from both sides and the middle, they're a great team," said Marian Coach John "Doc" Fallabel. "We just didn't have a blocking scheme that worked against their front line. They played relaxed, you could see they were having fun out there and I think they have a legitimate shot at winning the State Championship."
Williamson picked up momentum after they fought and clawed to win the first set.
It wasn't easy for the Warriors however with the Fillies battling the whole way. With the score knotted up at 17 a piece the Warriors used back-to-back kills from Horton and Daughtery to extend the lead to 19-17. Williamson would later extend the lead to 24-20 before Marian's MaryKate Sherkness would try and bring the Fillies back. Sherkness came up with three kills in a row to bring Marian within one, but the Warriors' Lindsea Jones finished off the set with a kill from the right side of the court.
Errors were a big reason for the Fillies first game loss as well. The Fillies from time to time this season have struggled serving the ball and it came back to bite them in that first set. As most sports fans know, unforced errors against a premier opponent are not a good recipe for a victory.
"We just had too many service errors in that first game," said Fallabel. "It was a possible 12-point turnaround for us in that game. We made mistakes and they didn't make hardly any throughout the entire match. Still, very proud of the girls effort. It's a big deal getting to the final four in the state and I don't think they realize how much they've really accomplished this season. It was a special year. We have a lot of young talent on this team and we'll be back."
After the first set the Fillies played from behind for the rest of the match. from behind for the rest of the match. The momentum was definitely on the side of the Warriors and with each point Williamson scored it seemed to dismantle the Marian attack more and more.
The Warriors jumped out to an 11-6 lead to eventually win the second game 25-18 and in the third they scored seven out of the last eight points to take that game as well, winnig 25-17. Sierra Magnotta and McKenna Greenwalt both had nine service points apiece for Williamson, followed by Jones, who tallied 35 assists. Whitney Hurlburt picked up 24 digs, and Horton had 10 kills and four blocks.
For Marian, MaryKate Sherkness led everybody with 19 kills. Abby O'Donnell had 25 assists, while Abby Stankiewitch collected three kills and three blocks, with Sophie Myers getting two kills and three blocks.
Sherkness has been a mainstay for the Fillies over the last four seasons, breaking the all-time kills record, while putting together arguably the best career in Marian history. Although there is disappointment in the loss for Sherkness and her teammates there is no denying that this season was a special one for all those involved.
"We got outplayed tonight, we just a fell a little short," said Sherkness. "We have had such a good season though and I couldn't be more proud of my teammates. We brought Marian volleyball back to a District Championship and back to states and that's a pretty impressive feat. We're like family and although we fell a little short tonight, we really did accomplish a lot this season."