Marian cruises semis
nancy scholz/special to the times news Marian's Abby O'Donnell (left) and Abby Stankiewitch go up to block a Christopher Dock attack at the net.
LAURELDALE Home court advantage in the PIAA Girls Volleyball Championships may not be something that is very prominent, with most games taking place at a neutral site.
But Marian, the District 11 champion, certainly seems to have found its home away from home in the playoffs.
For the second consecutive year, the Fillies picked up a win in the Class A quarterfinals at Muhlenberg High School, this time a 25-7, 25-14, 25-14 victory over Christopher Dock.
"The girls played up to par today. They played Marian kind of volleyball," said coach John Fallabel. "A big difference is that our girls play funny in other gyms. Since we were here last year, I said, 'You can't play bad because you were here before.'
"They know the gym, and we had a nice crowd here supporting us with a lot of noise and that makes a big difference for them."
The gym wasn't the only constant for the Fillies (22-2), who leaned on yet another strong performance from junior setter Abby O'Donnell.
"The whole game runs through Abby O'Donnell," Fallabel said. "She had 19 service attempts, the most of anyone on the team. We scored the most points when she was on the service line."
O'Donnell showed what she's capable of in the very first game. With the Fillies holding on to a 6-4 lead, the junior stepped to the service line and spurred a 10-point run, increasing Marian's advantage to 16-4 and taking the Pioneers (15-9) out their rhythm early on in contest.
"She was the key to the game today," Fallabel said of O'Donnell's performance. "She controlled the game with her serving, her setting and her defense."
The sound play of the Fillies was something that came as no surprise to Pioneers' coach Trish Hoover.
"I knew that they were a very good passing team after scouting them and talking to a few coaches who had gone up against them this year," Hoover said. "So I knew their passing game was very good and I knew their serving game was tough.
"All that being said, I thought my girls worked hard. But Marian Catholic is the better team right now."
Christopher Dock, the District 1 champion, was able to capitalize on several Marian errors throughout the contest, which led to the majority of the Pioneers' points.
While Fallabel was admittedly concerned about that aspect of the Fillies' game, the coach had little reason to be disappointed on Saturday.
"Volleyball is a game of errors and we did have some today," Fallabel said. "The timing (at the net) was still a little bit off between Grace (Boyle) and Abby (O'Donnell) and that's something we're working on.
"But the entire team played very well and it was a complete team effort. Everyone on the bench got a chance to get out there and play and I'm very happy with how they performed."
Boyle, also a captain, led the Fillies with 10 kills while junior Emily Pilla chipped in six of her own.
Marian will face District 6 runner-up Bishop Guilfoyle, a 3-0 winner over District 3 champion Dayspring Christian, in tomorrow's semifinal. The Fillies, who who their only state in 2003, will enter with a 12-match win streak.
"I feel a little bit better (after today's performance), but we still have to pick the speed up," Fallabel said. "The team we're going up against next is going to be as fast or faster than us and that's what we have to be prepared for.
"We have to work hard the next two practices and just run our drills. We'll run our speed drills and make sure we keep their heads on straight. But I think we've got a chance."