MARION — You don’t just assume you’re qualifying for the state tournament every year. At least you shouldn’t.
Delaney Rice and Kayba Laube didn’t get there the previous two years, which makes going back this year all the better.
“We knew it wasn’t a given every year,” Rice said, after her Marion volleyball team swept past Carlisle in a Class 4A regional final Monday night. “We had to work for it.”
“This moment is so special,” Laube added. “We wanted to bring it back to our freshman year and go back. Be leaders this year because we’re seniors. It’s just really cool to see the growth that we’ve had from freshmen to seniors.”
Marion (30-10) wasn’t earnestly challenged in the first two games, winning 25-15 and 25-11. Carlisle led much of the third before the eighth-ranked Indians rallied for a 25-21 victory.
This is Marion’s fourth trip to state in the last six years. That’s three in a row followed by a two-year drought followed by this.
“I think if you lose a group of girls and you go four years where you haven’t been to state, it’s that much harder,” said Coach Roxanne Paulsen. “Kayba and Delaney were with us four years ago, and, then, obviously, with basketball, they’ve had a taste of that. So it’s great. I’m glad for the kids, it’s nice to do this. We’ve had a good season, and it’s nice to cap it off with that state tournament trip.”
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Carlisle (23-15) was an unexpected regional final opponent for Marion, as the Wildcats upset ranked teams Oskaloosa and Knoxville to reach this match. But the Indians still had a solid scouting report, with Paulsen saying her girls followed it well.
Rice, a 6-foot-2 middle hitter who couldn’t be stopped at times, said the number one thing on that scouting report was to know where Carlisle senior hitters Molly Hoekstra and Meredith Hoffman were at all times.
“We knew that we needed to be on them no matter where they were,” Paulsen said. “I thought in terms of executing that, plus our offense, trying to go at their weaker spots or their shorter gals, our girls did a phenomenal job of executing that game plan. And serving, too. We had a game plan of where we wanted to go, and I thought 80 to 90 percent of the serves were in the spots we were hoping they’d be.”
Lauren Swanger’s kill off a block attempt ended the first game for Marion. The Indians scored the final nine points of Game 2 and the last four of Game 3.
With a 21-21 tie, Rice had a kill, freshman Avery VanHook had two ace serves, and Rice put it away with a kill.
“Calm down and focus,” Rice said. “Focus on the game. Because we were starting to play really fast and antsy. We had to slow down and focus on the next couple of points.”
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