In the span of two months, the improbable became quite manageable.
“In the beginning of August, we had a long way to go,” said Marion High School volleyball coach Roxanne Paulsen. “We had a lot of work to do, and we’ve done it.”
Marion wrapped up a share for the Wamac Conference West Division crown Tuesday, sweeping Vinton-Shellsburg.
The Indians (21-8 overall, 6-1 division) will split the championship with Waterloo Columbus (17-9, 6-1). Clear Creek Amana (17-10, 5-1) can make it title triplets if it wins at Vinton-Shellsburg on Thursday.
When the team assembled for practice, Paulsen had a laundry list of items to shore up, particularly at the net.
“We were very young in the front row,” she said. “We just sat down and said, ‘OK, we can’t do everything at once. We need to learn to walk and take one step at a time.’ ”
Marion did have experience in the back row, and defense has been the team’s strength. Micaela Combs is in her third year as a defensive starter, and sophomore Abby Phillips leads the team in digs, at 5.31 per game (14th best in the state).
Three sophomores and two freshmen are in the Indians’ 10-player rotation, and it’s a freshman — Alyssa Thomas — who has emerged as the top hitting threat. Thomas averages 3.30 kills per set and owns a .301 kill efficiency.
“It’s been great watching this team grow and make progress,” Paulsen said.
Another stacked field at Westside
Saturday’s Westside Invitational tournament features 12 ranked teams and three defending state champions.
Dike-New Hartford fits the bill in both regards. Last year’s 2A champions, the Wolverines (32-0) are No. 1 in 2A and slotted as the top overall seed in the tournament.
DNH is in the same pool as 2011 4A champion Iowa City West, which is coming off a sweep of Iowa City High on Tuesday. Tripoli has won the last four 1A titles and won the Westside crown last season.
Cedar Rapids Jefferson hosts the tournament, with a portion of the event at Cedar Rapids Washington. Pool play begins at 8:30 a.m., with bracket play scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and the finals slated for 5:30.