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Marion sizzles early, sweeps Benton to advance to state volleyball
Wolves will face Cedar Rapids Xavier in a 4A state quarterfinal Monday
MARION — It took a while to get all of the postmatch banner combinations completed.
Players with banner. Players and parents with banner. Players and friends with banner.
Setting the tone, on the other hand, that didn’t take long at all.
Fifth-ranked Marion sizzled out of the gate and swept No. 14 Benton Community, 25-14, 25-20, 25-12, in a Class 4A volleyball regional final Tuesday night at Marion High School.
“We came in confident, and that’s probably the strongest we’ve played all year,” said junior Peyton Johnson, who matched Avery Van Hook for the Wolves’ lead in kills, with 10.
Marion (36-8) advances to the state tournament for the 10th time, the fifth in the last eight years. It will face No. 4 Cedar Rapids Xavier (29-4) in a quarterfinal at 6 p.m. Monday.
“We’re just excited to get back,” Van Hook said. “After losing last year (in the regional final against Dallas Center-Grimes), we were really hungry.
“Only four of us have been here before, so Coach (Roxanne Paulsen) gave us a goal to come out calm and play our game.”
They played it beautifully, particularly in the opening set.
Marion was a buzzsaw immediately. The Wolves earned 15 of their first 16 points — nine kills, three blocks and three aces — and led 18-4 in a hurry.
“The girls did a really good job, right away,” Paulsen said. “One of our goals was to start strong and make a statement right away. We needed that leadership out of our upperclassmen, and we got it.”
Benton (26-15) stabilized throughout the back half of the first set, then shot to an 11-6 lead in Game 2.
The Wolves scored five in a row to get even at 11, then the teams went back and forth. Benton led 20-19, before Marion scored the final six points of the set, including an ace and a kill by Elise Mehaffy.
Marion closed it out with a 13-1 run midway through the finale, racing away from a 6-6 deadlock.
Van Hook finished with 10 kills and 14 assists. Johnson matched her with 10 kills. Michaela Goad added nine kills and three blocks.
Mehaffy converted all 18 of her serves (three for aces) and posted 20 assists.
The Wolves posted a 38-13 advantage in kills.
Paulsen’s emotions were torn afterward. She was thrilled for her team, disappointed for her brother-in-law (Benton Coach Mike Embretson) and her niece (Bobcats setter Grace Embretson).
“It’s bittersweet,” said Paulsen, whose daughter Sophia Paulsen had four kills and two aces.
“I really wanted Grace to have a great match. They did a lot of things to push us.”
MARION 3, BENTON COMMUNITY 0 (25-14, 25-20, 25-12)
Class 4A Regional Final, at Marion
Serving: Benton 40-47 (.851), Marion 66-74 (.892)
Aces: Benton 5 (Addison Phillips, Grace Embretson 2), Marion 8 (Elise Mehaffy 3)
Kills: Benton 13 (Piper Nelson 5), Marion 38 (Peyton Johnson, Avery Van Hook 10)
Assists: Benton 13 (Embretson 12), Marion 37 (Mehaffy 20)
Blocks: Benton 3 (Alyssa Tegeler 2), Marion 5 (Michaela Goad 3)