MARION – A strong effort wasn’t strong enough for the Marion Indians.
Thirteenth-ranked Dubuque Wahlert stopped No. 10 Marion, 20-25, 25-18, 28-26, 25-17, Thursday night in an Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union Class 4A regional semifinal at Marion.
“We’ve been up and down throughout the season and had our moments where our errors hurt us a little bit,” Marion Coach Roxanne Paulsen said. “Just some of our youth and tonight was certainly one of those.”
Marion came out, grabbing the first game winning 10 of 14 points in a stretch to turn a two-point deficit into a lead the Indians didn’t surrender.
Wahlert rebounded, scoring five straight points to take control of the second before closing with four straight points. Cait Dolehide provided a kill and block in that final run for the Eagles.
The third game was pivotal in the match. Wahlert appeared to be cruising to a 2-1 advantage with leads of 17-10 and 20-11. The Indians fought back, receiving key kills from Alyssa Thomas, scoring three of Marion’s seven straight points to tie it 23-23.
Thomas powered Marion, leading the Indians with 11 kills. Johanna Steggall added nine kills, and Kelsey Portwine and Kaela Halvorson had six apiece. Thomas had two blocks, while Amanda Sahm paced Marion with 31 assists.
Paulsen complimented the play of Thomas.
“She’s been that kind of player for us throughout the season,” Paulsen said. “It’s nice when you have a freshman able to do that.”
The teams traded points, but a Betsy Duehr kill and Marion error helped the Eagles fend off the threat.
“I’m proud of the way the girls battled in the third game,” Paulsen said. “They battled really well. We had ups and downs in this one, too. Wahlert did what they needed to do to win and you have to give them credit for that.”
Wahlert Coach Jan Thyne it was important for her to team to withstand the challenge. The Eagles continued, leading the final game for all but one point when Marion led 4-3.
“Huge, because it’s a whole new ballgame,” said Thyne, noting her team played better was they got over a tight start. “We just can’t let runs like that go.”
The Eagles had a strong turn around after dropping the opening game. They decided to revert back to their strengths and abandoned adjustments they implemented based on tape of Marion’s play. It caused fits for the young Indians at the net.
“We didn’t block very well up front,” Paulsen said. “They ran a few quick balls out of the middle. Their slides were a little faster than what we run tempo-wise.”
The Indians displayed emotion following the loss, closing the season at 27-14. It was tough realizing the campaign was finished.
“I love these girls,” Thomas said. “It stinks we end it like this, but it was a really great season.”
Wahlert improves to 17-17 and advances to face eighth-ranked West Delaware in the regional final Tuesday at Delhi, beginning at 7 p.m. The Hawks beat Vinton-Shellsburg, 25-7, 25-11, 25-12, Thursday night. Regional champions qualify for the state tournament Nov. 7-10 at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.