POTTSVILLE – The Marian volleyball team strutted into Martz Hall last night for the Schuylkill League playoffs undefeated and losers of just three sets all season (42-3).
However, Marian left the Mecca a shell of its former self after dropping three sets in the span of an hour to undefeated Pottsville (15-0), as the Crimson Tide rolled to a shocking 25-21, 25-22, 25-20 semifinal victory over the Fillies.
Tri-Valley swept Pine Grove in the other semifinal, 25-16, 25-14, 25-12, and then pulled out a five-game thriller over Pottsville, 25-27, 27-25, 25-19, 17-25, 15-12 to claim its second consecutive Schuylkill League championship.
"Tonight was all about cohesiveness. They (Pottsville) played as a team and we didn't. It's as simple as that," stated Marian head coach John "Doc" Fallabell. "Our girls were all over the place tonight – they weren't in sync and they weren't playing together. It was just a bad night all around."
Marian opened up by taking advantage of three consecutive Crimson Tide errors, as the Fillies raced out to a 9-5 lead in the first game. However, Pottsville answered back with four straight kills from Sasha Thomas, in addition to back-to-back aces by the senior outside hitter to tie the game at 14-14.
Things then began to unravel for the Fillies. Pottsville's next five points came from two Fillies service errors, a hitting error, a defensive error and a bad pass. The self-inflicted wounds dug Marian into a 22-17 hole, as the Crimson Tide finished out the four-point win (25-21).
After tasting a victory in game one, Pottsville became hungry for more, and setter Hannah Corbacio had no problems feeding the ball to Sasha Thomas.
The Fillies simply had no answer.
The Crimson Tide went on a 9-0 run behind eight service points from Karlena Bartashus and seven consecutive kills by Thomas. Marian eventually climbed back and cut the deficit to 24-22 behind two straight Grace Boyle kills, but Pottsville's Caitlin Herndon was an unlikely hero off the bench and salted away game two (25-22) with a soft kill.
Thomas had nine of her team-leading 21 kills in the second game and accounted for 21 of her team's 37 kills.
"She (Thomas) is such a good hitter and it's near impossible for a high school team to successfully defend her," added Fallabel. "It's just so hard to prepare for a hitter of her caliber. I probably could have done a better job setting up the rotations in the first two games. We tried to adjust our defense during the match, but the girls never really responded."
Marian seemed to get a spark early in the third game, when Marykate Sherkness delivered three straight kills to stake the Fillies to a 5-0 lead. That lead eventually swelled to eight points (15-7).
With Marian holding a 19-15 lead and trying to forced a fourth game, the Fillies once again began shooting themselves in the foot, as Pottsville went on an 11-1 run to end the match.
In the span of three games, Marian committed nine service errors and 14 hitting errors. In comparison, Pottsville tallied only six service errors and just two hitting errors.
"We were just full of errors and mistakes tonight," concluded Fallabel. "We have a lot of cleaning up to do before Districts."
Pottsville, which has dropped just five sets all season, was led by Thomas' 21 kills, two blocks, four service points and three aces. Madison Sterner added five kills, while Karlena Bartashus tallied 14 service points. Hannah Corbacio dished off 26 assists to go along with nine service points.
For Marian (14-1), which will host the winner of the Nativity/Salem Christian game on Tuesday in the District 11 Class A semifinals, Marykate Sherkness delivered 18 kills to go along with nine digs and three blocks. Emily Pilla and Grace Boyle factored in with five kills apiece, and Nikki Collevechio added 16 digs, eight service points and two aces. Setter Abby O'Donnell added 27 assists and six digs.