By Kurt Ritzman
Assistant Sports Editor
After dropping the first two games to Marquette Catholic on Friday night in a Class 1A regional semifinal, Preston seemed to seize momentum early in Game 3.
The Trojans (27-7, ranked ninth) scored seven of the first eight points — keyed by three kills by Brooke Krogman, an ace by Ryleigh Keeney and a combined block from Krogman and Emily Strait.
But after a timeout, Marquette (28-5, ranked eighth) rallied and finished off the three-game sweep 25-22, 25-16, 25-18 to pull within one win of the state tournament.
“Our coaches calmed us down a little,” Marquette senior Lauren Swain said. “When we pass it, we need to know we can. After we get our pass up, it’s pretty much our game after that.”
The Mohawks got kills on the next four points, three from Jacquel Frett, and pulled even at eight. Krogman knocked down another kill to put Preston in the lead, but Erica Sieverding countered with a kill for the Mohawks. A Preston hitting error put Marquette ahead 10-9, and the Mohawks never relinquished that lead.
Kelli Herrig knocked down a kill to put Marquette ahead 15-11 and send Swain to the service line. She helped seal the match with a six-point serving run — starting with back-to-back aces and containing three total — to put the Mohawks ahead 21-11.
“My grandpa passed away last year,” Swain said. “I put a picture of him in my shoe. I kind of took a little step and that helped me. Last year, he always wanted us to go to state. He’d fly out to watch us play. I feel like he’s here with us.”
Danielle Bender drilled a kill to give Marquette match point at 24-14, but Preston wasn’t done. Keeney nailed a kill, Krogman and Strait combined on a block and Marquette committed three errors to pull the Trojans to 24-18. But Bender ended the match with a kill.
“It means a lot to us,” Swain said. “We are extremely excited for substate. It’s our senior year and we want state so bad. It’s been our dream since we were in sixth grade.”
In Game 1, Marquette jumped to an early 8-4 lead, but Preston scored the next three points — two kills by Strait and one by Lizzie Meier — to pull to 8-7. Sieverding knocked down a kill and then Bender served seven points in a row to extend the lead to 16-7.
“We were excited throughout the whole day, and we knew that we could win,” Swain said. “As long as we play our game and play our hardest, we can do whatever we want. We came in with the mental capability, saying, ‘We can do this.’ ”
The Mohawks extended their lead to 22-12 and went ahead 24-14 on a kill by Sieverding. But Preston fought back. Krogman pounded a kill and then served an ace to start a seven-point serving run to make the score 24-22.
A Preston hitting error gave Marquette the first game, but the momentum seemed to change. The Mohawks made sure that wasn’t the case, though. They scored five of the first six points in Game 2, including two aces by Kelsey Tebbe.
“It’s teamwork,” Swain said. “That’s our main thing. Our motto is, ‘Teamwork makes the dream work.’ We’ve said that forever. We think this could be our year to go to state.”
The game stayed close early, with Strait hitting a kill to cut the deficit to 9-8. But a kill by Sieverding, who then served back-to-back aces, started a 10-5 run that put Marquette ahead 19-13.
Preston scored the next three points, forcing Marquette to call a timeout with a 19-16 lead. Sieverding drilled a kill and then closed the game on a five-point service run, ending with three consecutive aces.
The last hurdle the Mohawks face before a trip to the state tournament is 22-8 Belle Plaine, which they play in Marion on Wednesday.
“We need to practice hard,” Swain said. “We have to know we can in the back of our heads. It will help to have all of our fans there because they mean a lot.”
MARQUETTE CATHOLIC 25-25-25, PRESTON 22-16-18
Kills — Preston (Brooke Krogman 12, Emily Strait 8, Ryleigh Keeney 5); Marquette (Jacquel Frett 9, Kelli Herrig 8, Erica Sieverding 8, Danielle Bender 7, Lauren Swain 5). Assists — Preston (Cassie Aldis 22); Marquette (Kelsey Tebbe 33). Ace serves — Preston (Krogman 2, Keeney 2); Marquette (Tebbe 4, Sieverding 4, Swain 3). Blocks — Preston (Krogman 2, Keeney 2, Strait 2, Aldis); Marquette (Sieverding 1, Tebbe 1, Frett 1).