Marian couldn't have asked for a better start.
Unfortunately for the Fillies, Pottsville Nativity couldn't have answered with a more emphatic finish.
In a battle between the two programs that have dominated small school volleyball in the region for over a decade, the Green Wave rallied for a 13-25, 25-20, 25-17, 25-21 Schuylkill League victory on Tuesday night.
"When you have programs as strong as these two are, with great athletes on both sides, there is going to be a great rivalry," said Nativity coach Maria Serina. "We told our kids that they had to be ready for high pressure situations, a chaotic crowd, and people cheering against you.
"That's exactly what we got and we did a nice job responding."
After a dominating 25-13 opening game win for the Fillies, they appeared to have all the momentum.
Marian then built a late lead in game two before Nativity took control.
"The momentum changed at the end of the second game," said Marian coach John "Doc" Fallbel. "They put together a huge run (22-6) on us during the second and third games. We were ahead 20-18 in game two and they came back to win. Then they jumped out to a 15-6 lead in game three.
"We battled but could never overcome that huge swing."
Nativity rolled to the win in game three and then broke a 17-17 tie in game four to gradually pull away and close out the match.
"I thought one of the keys for us was moving our libero Sasha Birosik from middle back to left back after game one," said Serina. "Marian was scoring a lot on deep, cross court hits in the first game, but Sasha was a real difference maker after we moved her. She was digging up everything."
Birosik finished with a match-high 31 digs. Setter Courtney Field (27 assists, seven kills) and middle hitter Emilie Baker (14 kills) also played well.
After a long stretch of Marian dominance in the rivalry, the Green Wave has now won the last seven meetings between the schools.
"Some of our players are going to have to get better if we are going to beat Nativity," said Fallabel. "We also need another hitter to step up in our second rotation.
"Nativity is a very talented, well-coached team. We need to keep improving and be better the next time we play them."
Marian was led at the net by Abby Owsinski with 10 kills. Devin Parambo (seven kills), Tori Vadyak (six) and freshman Marykate Sherkness (five) also contributed offensively.
Taylor Mele led the way defensively for the Fillies with 22 digs. Parambo and Cathleen Cataldo added 16 and 14 digs respectively. Setter Rachel Krajcirik had 24 assists.
"It was a great volleyball match," said Fallabel. "This is what high school volleyball should be like all the time. A tremendous crowd and outstanding play on the court. It was great volleyball."
It was also a great start to the 2009 version of the Marian-Nativity volleyball rivalry. With one more regular season matchup between the teams and then a strong possibility of postseason meetings, it promises to be an even better finish.