MINERSVILLE – The Schuylkill League may have instituted a new format this year for its volleyball playoffs.
However, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Whether playing everything in one night or spreading out the playoffs over two separate days, the fact remains that Marian is once again competing for a Schuylkill League Championship.
Last night in Minersville, the Division IV champion Fillies made easy work out of Division II champion Pine Grove, 25-13, 25-10, 25-15. The semifinal win advances Marian to Thursday night's championship match (7:00 p.m. at Martz Hall) against Division I champion Pottsville. The Tide was a 18-25, 25-14, 25-20, 25-13 winner over Division III champion Halifax.
"After a year off, it feels great to be back playing for the Schuylkill League championship," stated Marian head coach John "Doc" Fallabel. "It's a testament to all the hard work and dedication these girls have put in this season. They deserve to be playing Pottsville on Thursday night."
The Fillies (17-2) had no trouble in the semifinals and dominated Pine Grove (12-5) from start to finish. Pine Grove scored most of its points off Marian miscues. On the night, the Cardinals earned only 14 of their 38 points, as their remaining 24 points where credited off Marian serving errors (7), hitting errors (11) and violations (6).
"We had way too many mistakes tonight, and that's how you get beat by good teams," added Fallabel. "Against a team like this though, it really doesn't matter too much."
With the Fillies trailing 5-4 in the second game, Marian used an eight-point service run by Abby O'Donnell to take a commanding 13-5 lead. After falling behind 4-2 in the third game, it was a six-point service run by Lauren Nietz, which included four aces, that broke the game wide open.
However, Fallabel's biggest concern was not his team's play on the court, but rather the health of sophomore middle hitter Abby Stankiewitch who was sitting on the bench with crutches.
Stankiewitch sprained her ankle at the Pottsville Tournament on Saturday leaving her status questionable for the remainder of the season. The loss of Stankiewitch forced Fallabel to adjust his offense.
"Abby is our number two hitter and she has about 180 kills on the season, which is a third of our offense. It's a big loss, but it's something that we just have to play through," said Fallabel. "We went with a majority of outside and right side attacks tonight not because we want to, but because we have to. We had 43 outside attacks, 20 attacks from the right side and only 14 from the middle."
Grace Boyle led Marian with 11 kills and 12 digs, while Emily Pilla added eight kills, five aces, five digs and five assists. Setter Abby O'Donnell dished off 27 assists, while Maureen Kloap and Sophie Myers added five kills apiece. Libero Lauren Nietz factored in with 10 digs.