What are the greatest rivalries in sports?
Lakers-Celtics? Yankees-Red Sox? Duke-North Carolina?
You can make an argument for any of those.
But when it comes to local high school volleyball, there is no argument.
Marian vs. Pottsville Nativity begins and ends the discussion. As a matter of fact, when you consider the competitiveness and the importance of the matches throughtout the last two decades, you can easily make a case that it's the top rivalry among area high schools in any sport.
It really is that big!
Since Marian established its volleyball program in 1989, there have been a total of 21 small school volleyball champions crowned in District 11 and either the Green Wave or the Fillies have won every single one.
Year-after-year, the District 11 championship match seems to boil down to the Fillies and the Green Wave battling it out at Martz Hall in Pottsville. With the reduction of the state tournament field in recent years, the match isn't just for bragging rights and a D-11 title, it also determines the district's lone state tournament qualifier.
It's just a great rivalry," said Marian coach John "Doc" Fallabel. "It's fun for the players, fun for the coaches and fun for the fans.
"A few years back, the two teams didn't like each other a whole lot. There was always so much on the line when the two teams met, that it just created a lot of passion on both sides.
"But I think through the years it has gotten to the point where the rivalry is one of mutual respect. We know that they are going to be our toughest match and I think they feel the same way about us."
There is much more to the rivalry than just one meeting a year at districts, however. What takes the rivalry to another level is the fact that the two small school powerhouses not only both belong to the Schuylkill League, but they both play in the same division.
Marian and Nativity have also been the dominate teams in the Schuylkill League over the past two decades, making their two regular season matches the highlight of the league schedule.
"It's hard to explain, you just have to be there," said Fallabel about the annual regular season home-and-home series. "It's absolutely fantastic. The gyms are so electrically charged. It's really special.
"I was trying to explain to our underclassmen before we played Nativity last week how different the match was going to be. But I really couldn't prepare them. It's so far from your typical regular season volleyball match that until you experience it you really don't understand."
To underscore his point, Fallabel said that at last Thursday's match at Marian, where the Fillies snapped a nine-match losing streak against the Green Wave, that there were three TV stations and three newspapers in attendance and the season was less than two weeks old.
"The Nativity-Marian match is one that everyone looks forward to experiencing. It is a match that guarantees a ton of excitement and intensity from both schools," said Marian grad and current Nativity coach Maria Serina. "Fans of the sport make it a point to attend and it's common to have a packed crowd."
Serina, now in her seventh year at the helm of the Green Wave said it's no secret why the rivalry is so intense.
"Nativity and Marian are the two best volleyball teams in the area," said Serina "Anytime the two schools meet you're going to see an extremely high level of skill and intensity. "Former players come back to watch, officials who aren't working other matches that night attend, it's just a great night of volleyball."
Two outstanding programs … huge crowds … championships on the line.
They are the ingredients that all great rivalries have.
They are the same ingredients that make the Marian and Nativity volleyball rivalry so special.
ALL TOGETHER NOW ..... Last Wednesday, an unusual feat occurred right at the finish line in a Schuylkill League cross country meet. In a tri-meet with Weatherly and Schuylkill Haven, six different Tamaqua harriers all ran across the finish line at the same time. In doing so, Dana Ansbach, Amber Carroll, Cecily Kohlmeir, Jess Leiby, Colleen Rorke and Schuyler Schmidt tied for first place with a time of 24:24 that day. It helped the Blue Raiders record a sweep with identical 15-50 scores over the Wreckers and Hurricanes.
BACK-TO-BACK LEAGUE HONORS ..... On Monday night, the Marian golf team took full advantage of a quad meet at Mountain Valley Golf Course. The Colts walked off the par-72 course with a sweep over Mahanoy Area, Nativity and Williams Valley. In doing so, the Colts were able to clinch the Schuylkill League Division II title. It was the second year in a row head coach Len Brylewski's team was able to capture the division title.
ONE MORE TO THE CENTURY MARK ..... On Monday night, the Tamaqua girls' soccer team earned a 5-0 victory over Nativity. With the win, the Blue Raiders' coach Clem McCarroll scored his 99th coaching victory since taking over the helm of the Lady Raiders. This evening the Blue Raiders can help McCarroll reach No. 100 with a victory over Pine Grove on the road.
TOP SEED ..... Palmerton's Ben Andrews entered today's Colonial League Golf Championships at Bethlehem Municipal Golf Course as the top seed with a league average score of 72. The junior has shot in the 60's a couple of times this season with the last being against Northampton on September 13 when he shot a 66 at Blue Ridge Country Club's Par 72 course. He also shot a 67 at Blue Ridge in the team's first match of the year against Bangor. Other local seeds in today's tournament are Northwestern's Cole Miller (75 avg.), Northwestern's Nick Vecellio (77 avg.), Northwestern's Steven Reitz (80 avg.), Palmerton;s Northwestern's Tyler Kunsman (82 avg.), Billy Heinick (84.6 avg.), Northwestern's Brian Quinlan (88 avg.) and Northwestern's Devin Haddad (97 avg.).