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Final momentum swing goes Marion’s way in 5-set state volleyball triumph over Xavier
Wolves top the Saints for the first time since 2016, advance to 4A semifinals
CEDAR RAPIDS — As the match veered toward a fifth set, Coach Roxanne Paulsen wasn’t the only vocal one in the Marion huddle.
As Paulsen talked strategy, several of the Wolves screamed incentive:
“We’re not done! We’re not done!”
They’re not done.
The fifth-ranked Wolves led the final set from start to finish and outlasted No. 4 Cedar Rapids Xavier, 25-27, 25-13, 15-25, 25-19, 15-9, in a Class 4A quarterfinal at the state volleyball tournament Monday night at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse.
“It’s just belief,” senior Elise Mehaffy said. “We’ve been preparing for this. We’ve played them multiple times.
“This was amazing.”
The Wolves (37-8) reversed the outcome of their two regular-season encounters and ended Xavier’s title reign. They’ll face No. 1 Western Dubuque (32-3) in a semifinal at noon Wednesday.
» Photo gallery: Marion vs. Cedar Rapids Xavier in state volleyball tournament
Momentum can change swiftly in volleyball, and it was all over the board in this match. Leading two sets to one, Xavier (29-5) appeared to be on the brink of victory when it cut an 18-9 deficit to 19-18.
But the Wolves called timeout and closed out the set with a 6-1 run.
“We were just thinking, ‘We need one point. We need a sideout,’” Marion’s Elise Van Hook said. “After we got that first one, we fought back to win the set.”
Paulsen said, “Momentum can change in a heartbeat, and when you’ve got it, you need to ride it out as long as you can. The girls did a great job with that tonight.”
Marion led 5-1 in the fifth, but Xavier got within 5-4 and 8-7. It was 11-9, then the Saints had a pair of attack errors, then Michaela Goad ended the match with a pair of blocks.
“Paulsen told me that when (Xavier’s Maya Karl) steps to the left or right side, that’s where she goes,” Goad said. “It was just scouting, and I was able to read it.”
Mehaffy collected 17 kills and 20 assists for the Wolves. Van Hook added 16 kills and 22 assists. Peyton Johnson posted 10 kills. Natalee Hartman posted 28 digs.
Karl had 18 kills for the Saints, and freshman Libby Fandel added 15.
Both teams counted 56 kills. The difference? 34 attack errors for the Saints (seven in the final set), 19 for Marion.
And the Wolves had 11 blocks to the Saints’ four.
“Marion played really, really well,” Karl said. “We played hard, but we didn’t necessarily play well. We gave it all we had.”
Xavier had beaten Marion eight straight times dating back to 2016.
“This is huge,” Mehaffy said. “We wanted it so bad.”
They’re not done.
“We had heard rumors that Xavier was overlooking us, not thinking we’re competition,” Van Hook said. “They didn’t know, but we were coming for them.”