With a sweep over Vinton County Wednesday night, the Marietta High volleyball team was crowned sectional champions.
The Lady Tigers were victorious in three sets by scores of 26-24, 25-22 and 25-20. The Vikings made it interesting though, as they led or were tied late in each set, including a 15-6 lead in the second set. Marietta head coach Ron Kidder, owner of over 300 career coaching victories, credited his players for their resiliency.
"These kids, they're fighters," Kidder said. "We didn't start off like we needed to tonight, but they played hard and fought back. That shows the heart these kids have. They're not going to give in to anybody. You're going to have to beat them, because they're not going to give up."
In the first set, Marietta started off on a 3-0 run thanks to an ace by Kaitlyn Cozzens and a kill by Kristen Hill. Later, two more kills by Hill made it 5-3 and then two kills from Gracie Haas made it 7-6. Vinton County then scored three straight points to go up 9-7. After a serve out of bounds, another kill from Hill tied it up at 9-9.
After the Vikings went up 10-9, Hill tied it again with a kill followed by a Haley Bonar kill to give the Lady Tigers an 11-10 advantage. Holly Hutchinson recorded a block to make it 12-10, but then Vinton County reeled off four straight points to take the lead. The Vikings would increase their lead to 17-13, but after a Marietta timeout, the Tigers came charging back with three consecutive points, paced by kills from Haas and Lain Weppler. Vinton County made it a two-point game again at 18-16, but kills by Bonar and Weppler tied it at 18 all. The teams went back and forth until a kill by Hill made it 22-21.
The Vikings would get a point to tie it, but a kill by Hutchinson put Marietta back on top 23-22. The Lady Tigers maintained a one-point lead until Weppler recorded the final kill of the set to make it 26-24.
Marietta d. Vinton County 26-24, 25-22, 25-20
Marietta (19-4) stats: Kaitlyn Cozzens 10pts, 2aces, 4kills, 33asst, 10digs; Lexi Walsh 5pts, 2aces, 23asst, 14digs, 1block; Kristen Hill 4pts, 3aces, 17kills; Kourtney Crum 8pts, 2aces, 11digs; Holly Hutchinson 1kill, 6digs, 1block; Maddie Miller 7pts, 15digs; Gracie Haas 5pts, 13kills, 5digs; Haley Bonar 4kills, 3asst, 5digs; Abby Harrison 2pts, 1ace, 1dig; Lain Weppler 8kills, 1dig
Next match: Marietta vs. Westfall/Miami Trace Wednesday, Oct. 24 (District Semifinal)
The Vikings came out hot in the second set, taking a 12-5 lead over Marietta. Once the lead increased to 15-6, the Lady Tigers turned it on, scoring seven straight points led by two aces from Kourtney Crum and kills by Hill and Cozzens.
After Vinton County got a point back, Marietta went on a 6-3 run to tie it up at 19-19. This run was powered by a kill and an ace from Hill, as well as kills by Haas and Lexi Walsh. After Marietta took the lead, Haas got another kill to make it 23-21. Vinton County's Caitlyn Powers notched a kill to make it 23-22, but kills by Weppler and Hutchinson wrapped up the second set to give Marietta a 2-0 advantage.
With a little breathing room, Marietta jumped out to a 13-9 lead in the third set, led by three kills from Haas, two kills from Hill and aces by Cozzens and Walsh. Weppler's kill made it 14-10, and later, two kills and ace from Hill made it 19-17 Marietta. After the two teams traded points, Vinton County called a timeout. Coming out of the timeout, the Vikings scored back-to-back points to tie the game at 20-20, but that was all they could get as Marietta claimed the final five points, capped by a kill by Weppler, to take the set and the match.
Overall, Weppler, a sophomore, contributed eight kills and a dig in the match.
"Our passing was a big key," Weppler said. "Our serving struggled a little bit, but our setting was really good. We just had some good hits when we really needed them."
After the team began trailing in the second set, Crum, a senior and leader on the team, said it was important that the team stayed positive.
"We just had to keep playing," Crum said. "We couldn't get our heads down. Our serving really started to improve. A lot of girls went a run which helped us a lot. And blocking was a big factor. (Vinton County) had a big outside hitter (Powers). If we couldn't shut her down, it was hard to get points back."
Kidder agreed that how Marietta dealt with Powers was important.
"You're not going to stop her, you have to try to slow her down," Kidder lamented. "At times we slowed her down. Once she got to the back row, we kept her there and we could make our run."
Overall, Cozzens led the team with 10 points and 33 assists. Maddie Miller paced the team in digs with 15, while Hill had a team-high 17 kills.
Up next for the Lady Tigers will be the district semifinal match next Wednesday (Oct. 24).
Marietta will either play Westfall or Miami Trace in another win-or-go-home scenario.