Marion claws past Bearcats

Marion claws past Bearcats

The Lady Patriots won their last two sets against Brookland by the minimum of four points, but the Marion team completed the sweep of the Bearcats, winning in three sets

The Marion Lady Patriots (6-2 overall, 5-2 6A/5A-3 Conference) prepared for Tuesday’s 6A state title rematch against the Jonesboro Hurricane (6-2, 5-2) by defeating Arkansas’ 4A state champions, the Brookland Bearcats (6-2) in three sets: 25-13, 27-25, 26-24.

Marion head coach Lisa Beasley could hardly contain her excitement after the match.

“That’s against a great team and I’m tickled to death,” Beasley said. “It was a big win and a big home win. We beat them in three (sets). That’s huge. I thought this was probably the first match where we looked like we were having fun. We played relaxed and had fun. And, I think that made all of the difference in the world.”

Marion wasted no time jumping ahead of the Bearcats, leading 7-3 early in the first set. Leading the Lady Patriots early was Destiny King who had six of her overall 14 kills during that opening run.

King, who regularly rockets in kills, seemed to add some touch to her game against Brookland, dropping in more tips and softly knocking the ball over the net as opposed to smacking it into her opponents territory.

Beasley says the change in King’s game was due to having to adjust mid-set and find open gaps in the Brookland defense.

“Sometimes the set wasn’t high enough for her to actually run her play,” Beasley said. “So, she was having to make it work with her offspeed and tip shots. She was really good about finding the holes in the defense and taking advantage of that… You know they’re smart little players. Just sometimes, when they get to trying to do too much, we make some mistakes. But, I thought they played and executed well tonight.”

After the Lady Patriots breezed through set one against Brookland, the Bearcats regrouped and offered much more resistance, taking the second set into extra points.

Carly Russell, who only recorded one kill for the Lady Patriots in the first set, took over the Marion reigns in set two, scoring nine of her team-leading 17 kills in the set, along with one of her two total aces. Russell also finished second on the Marion team in defensive stats, totaling 24 digs.

Beasley attributes Russell’s dynamic play of late to a slower than average start for the Marion senior.

“She’s struggled early on with errors but she really made up for it tonight,” Beasley said. “She still made some and she’s going to make some playing as hard as she does.

But, she definitely took advantage of the holes they had in the Brookland defense and I just thought she played a great game tonight.”

Despite leading the second set 17-13 at one point, the Lady Patriots found themselves staring down a 23-19 deficit until a Brookland serve hit the net and sparked an 8-2 run, with four kills from Russell, that allowed Marion to take set two.

Beasley is happy with the Marion team’s ability to take advantage of the late run.

“At a few runs, Brookland scored some points,” Beasley said. “But, I think we were able to hang on, execute and take care of business. So, I’m thrilled to death.”

Marion survived another Brookland run late in the third and final set. Though the Lady Patriots led the Bearcats 23-19, Brookland strung together a 5-1 run to take the lead from Marion at 24-23.

However, two errors by Brookland and Claire Moncrief’s only kill of the night for Marion allowed the Lady Patriots to finish the set and the match with a victory.

Leading Marion defensively, Caroline Brinkley finished the night with 33 digs, a performance which Beasley has come to expect from her senior libero.

“She’s like a little vacuum when she wants to be,” Beasley said. “I stay on her about getting her feet to ball and moving but when she’s on, she’s on. I’ve had lots of coaches compliment her and talk about how good she is.”

And, totaling 31 of Marion’s 33 assists, Lillian Fogleman put the Marion team in positions to score throughout the match.

The Marion junior varsity team also took the hardwood in a single set Monday night. The junior varsity Lady Patriots, despite leading at one time 20-17, fell to their counterparts from Brookland 2522.

Kaley Sheeley, Hartley Charlton and Autumn Starling all recorded a pair of kills for Marion in the junior varsity set while teammate Emma Stokes tallied five assists. The JV team was led on defense by Meagan Tolleson and Stokes who both recorded four digs, respectively.

Though the Brookland game was not originally on the Lady Patriots schedule, Marion found themselves having to pull out of a tournament which was scheduled for this weekend. Desperate for extra experience prior to yesterday’s game in Jonesboro, Beasley says she jumped at the chance to welcome the 4A state champion Bearcats.

“Playing is what we need to do,” Beasley said. “I thought this was the best thing we could do to get us prepared for Jonesboro and Nettleton on Thursday.

Because, you’re not going to get a practice like that regardless with the game atmosphere and the intensity. So, the entire team needs to play more. So, when Coach Rodriguez asked about scheduling us, we jumped on it.”

For a full recap of the 6A state title rematch between the Marion Lady Patriots and the Jonesboro Hurricane, read tomorrow’s The Evening Times.

The Lady Patriots return home Thursday to host the Nettleton Raiders (3-3, 33). First set between Marion and Nettleton is slated to begin in Marion at 4:30 p.m.

By Collins Peeples