By Kurt Ritzman
Assistant Sports Editor
For the first 10 minutes or so of Prince of Peace’s Class 1A volleyball regional quarterfinal Tuesday night against Marquette Catholic, you couldn’t tell which team was ranked eighth in the state and which team went 7-19 in the regular season.
Marquette (27-5) eventually pulled away in Game 1 and got extended service runs from Danielle Bender in Game 2 and Lauren Swain in Game 3 to earn a 25-16, 25-9, 25-16 win.
Julia Isenhour led the Irish (8-20) early with three kills and an ace serve, with the final of those kills tying the match at 9.
“We’ve been working a lot in practice on knowing where their key areas were and hitting them and executing well,” Prince of Peace coach Lisa Gogel said. “The girls came out and did that at first. The wear of the match — it was a high-intensity match against a good team — and three games of trying to be accurate gets a little tough.”
Jacquel Frett knocked down a kill to give the Mohawks the lead. Prince of Peace committed a net violation on the next point, but then Karli Atkinson hit a kill to cut the deficit to 11-10.
“They definitely improved,” Bender said. “It shows the heart that they have and that they really wanted it. When they came out fighting right away, we had to bring it back or else they were going to beat us.”
And bring it back they did. Frett drilled a kill on the next point and then Kelli Herrig served an ace to push the margin to 13-10. Prince of Peace did not get closer than two points the rest of the way.
Game 2 started the same way, with Marquette holding leads of 5-4 and 8-5 early. A kill by Erica Sieverding gave Bender the serve with the Mohawks leading 9-5.
Bender served an ace and Gogel subsequently called timeout. Then, Bender served another ace and another and another. She served six aces in a row, then two more after a kill by Sieverding. Another kill by Sieverding gave Bender a 10-point service run with eight aces.
“I actually don’t really remember that; it just kept going and going, like never-ending,” Bender said. “I just went with it. My serves have been struggling lately, so it was good to finally go on a run with them.”
The Irish started Game 3 well, taking a 4-1 lead on Isenhour’s team-high sixth kill. But the Mohawks fought back, tying the game at 5 on a Sieverding kill.
Prince of Peace kept within striking distance a bit longer, cutting the Marquette lead to 13-10 on a Mohawk error. Then, the Irish committed an error and Swain stepped to the service line.
She served back-to-back aces to start an eight-point service run that included five aces.
“I think it was a little mental breakdown,” Gogel said. “After we had a few hits that went out of bounds and a few calls that didn’t go our way, it’s harder to stand back there and feel confident in your ability to pass up the serve. I think when the girls were confident in it, they were doing a great job. We just had a little lapse.”
Marquette served 22 aces in the match, 18 coming in Games 2 and 3.
“We were placing them better and focusing more on our serves,” Bender said. “We were getting more in rhythm, since we’d been off for so long.”
The Irish went on a three-point run with a tip kill by Megan Mulholland, a block by Isenhour and a violation by Marquette to make the score 23-16. The Mohawks finished the match with a kill by Bender and an ace by Olivia Jackson.
“I’m a little disappointed,” Gogel said. “Yesterday we played a little bit better in practice, a little more accurate with our hits going to where we needed them to be. But, I was proud of the girls. They kind of knew they were off and they kept playing through it. They played as a team and played hard. It just wasn’t our night to put the ball where it needed to be.”
The Mohawks now prepare to face No. 9 Preston (27-6), which swept Springville on Tuesday, at home Friday in a regional semifinal.
“We know that we need to work our butts off the next few days in practice,” Bender said. “It won’t mean anything unless we keep going.
“We need to improve on our serves, talking is a big one — we ran into each other a lot tonight — and putting the ball away.”
The season ends for the Irish, but a lot of progress was made and a lot of positives were seen.
“We’ve really grown,” Gogel said. “We have a lot of young girls on the team, three freshmen in the starting lineup. We did a lot of switching around and moving people to positions they hadn’t played before. It took a lot of adjustment. It took a lot to get used to the people playing next to us. We’ve been building on that. Then getting the confidence that we can hit just as well as the other team or serve-receive as well. It’s about coming in prepared. From the Northeast tournament — which was probably one of the low points of our season — to today, the change in my kids’ attitudes, I’ve seen the girls give all-out hustle and play hard all the time.”
MARQUETTE CATHOLIC 25-25-25, PRINCE OF PEACE 16-9-16
Kills — Prince of Peace (Julia Isenhour 6, Karli Atkinson 2, Aaliyah Chapman 2, Sydney Laufenberg 2); Marquette (Danielle Bender 10, Erica Sieverding 8, Kelli Herrig 7, Jacquel Frett 6). Assists — Prince of Peace (Megan Mulholland 10); Marquette (Kelsey Tebbe 30). Ace serves — Prince of Peace (Isenhour 1); Marquette (Bender 8, Lauren Swain 5, Tebbe 3). Blocks — Prince of Peace (Isenhour 2, Erin Kuehn 1); Marquette (Frett 1).