MARION – The Indians are just one step away.
After a convincing – yet at times inconsistent – 3-0 (25-17, 25-28, 25-12) sweep of Davenport North, the Class 4A No. 10 Marion volleyball team sits just one win away from a state tournament berth.
Though the Indians didn’t drop a set, set scores weren’t indicative of just how hard the Wildcats made it for Marion in the first two stanzas.
“The biggest thing for us was just staying relaxed,” said junior libero Abby Phillips. “We just had to calm down a bit and get in our rhythm.
“It’s hard on the confidence at first. Sometimes it helps … to feed off each other for confidence.”
North started both the first two sets strong, holding leads in both and frustrating Marion defensively.
But at the same point in both sets, around midway, the Indians turned out the heat and ran away to win it. Being able to respond to and overcome the deficits impressed Marion Coach Roxanne Paulsen.
“I think it says a lot (about the girls). The girls have been pretty versatile all year, and have been able to adjust,” Paulsen said. “We’ve been behind before on different teams and come back. We’ve done it every which way. We’ve had a lot of experiences against a variety of teams this year. You just draw on those experiences.”
With such a young group, Paulsen said the youth and inexperience plays a major factor in how the team gets going.
Marion has just three seniors and relies heavily on girls with not a lot of time on the floor.
“When you have girls who haven’t been in this situation, it takes them a little longer to settle in,” Paulsen said. “You find that the more often they’re in that experience, the quicker they settle in and are OK.
“The neat thing is, we do have a very young team, so whatever we get out of this going forward is only going to help build us up for next year.”
With that regional final looming, the Indians’ youth will be put to its biggest test of the season with No. 7 Davenport Assumption waiting.
“Having been there before as a coach, you know (the regional final) is a big deal,” Paulsen said. “The biggest thing we’re going to have to do is get our girls settled into the rhythm of the game and try to treat it as any other game. We want to try to focus on that it is just another match and we have to have that kind of mentality.”
Though the process of calming a young group might seem daunting at first, Phillips took a much different spin on how the lack of big-game experience will factor in.
The junior – who ended the regular season ranked fifth in digs in all of Class 4A – said it could even be a positive because not knowing the stakes prevents anxiety ahead of time.
“I think it’s a little bit of being naïve with the girls, just having them be relaxed,” Phillips said. “Not getting ahead of the game and feeling the pressure, focusing on it just being a game, and maybe they won’t realize the pressure that’s on them.”
Marion (25-15) will face Assumption (30-6) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Tipton with a trip to the state tournament on the line.