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Fillies fall in Schuylkill League semis

POTTSVILLE - Power on the outside can provide a huge advantage in the game of volleyball.

Power can help a team solidify offensive runs, dig a team out of deficits, or steal momentum at crucial points in the match.

On Wednesday at Martz Hall in the Schuylkill League volleyball semis, Pottsville was able to do just that as the Tide’s offensive power came through time and time again in a 25-16, 25-23, 25-21 victory over Marian.

Pottsville showed its cards early and went right to its strong and athletic front as Jules Plachko, Jill Guzick, Caroline Gist, Lainey Dusel and Autumn Walchak all served as tough matchups for the Fillies.

The Tide wasted no time getting its offense started, jumping out to a commanding 17-9 advantage in the first set.

Marian fought back, using a 5-1 run to close to within four.

Clawing back would be the theme of the night for the Fillies, as they fought hard throughout the match. But after the Marian surge, Pottsville regrouped, closing out the first on a 7-2 run.

Plachko was the offensive catalyst, collecting five kills in the first set, which would be a sign of things to come. Three consecutive kills - two from Guzick and one from Plachko - closed out the Tide win.

“Jules and Eiley (Painter) were all over tonight, said Pottsville head coach Maria Sherakas. “We really have a great group of girls that all hustle. I was real happy with our offensive approach at the net, we played aggressive and that continues to be a strong point of emphasis for us.

“What I like about this group is their ability to handle adversity. They could be down a little bit, but they never have that sense of panic. They’re always able to push forward, and they never quit. We’re working toward our goal of winning a Schuylkill League Championship, and finishing this out.”

The second set proved to be the most crucial for Marian as it pushed the Tide to the limit, but was unable to pull it out.

The Fillies led late at 19-18. But it was Pottsville’s power that proved momentous again. With the score knotted at 23-23, Plachko thundered a kill on the left side to give the Tide a one-point advantage before Gist closed out the second with a strike from the middle.

“Our girls fought so hard tonight, and I’m proud of the way they went out there and battled,” said Marian head coach Maria Serina. “They did not give up at any point throughout the match. Our goal was to fight for one point at a time, and we did that. Pottsville played a fantastic game. “They covered the floor, they played great defense, and then obviously they have a good front line of attackers. But yeah, just proud of our girls’ effort and the way we fought.”

Marian continued to bring the fight to Pottsville in the third set.

Trailing 20-14, the Fillies made it interesting as Fatikha Tikhtova came through with a kill and a block to swing some momentum Marian’s way and cut the Tide lead to 23-21. Back-to-back errors by the Fillies, however, would seal the match and the victory for Pottsville.

LEADERS … Plachko had 16 kills, two blocks and 11 digs for the Tide. Guzick added 10 kills, Painter had 22 digs and Faith Eckley finished with 36 assists. For Marian, Rhiannon Brady and Charlotte Vinson each had six kills, with Tikhtova adding three kills and four blocks.

NEXT UP … Pottsville (19-0) will face Pine Grove in the Schuylkill League Championship tonight at Martz Hall at 7 p.m. Marian (16-2) will now await the District 11 1A playoffs, where it has locked up the No. 1 seed.

Marian players Rhiannon Brady (left), Charlotte Vinson (7), Abby Kluck (16) and Lauren Reaman (27) prepare to defend a Pottsville attack as the Tide's Faith Eckley (4) sets the ball. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS