MORGAN TOWNSHIP — After sealing Thursday's sectional opener, Marquette volleyball players celebrated like they almost won the title.
They had good reason.
It was the Blazers' first sectional victory since 2015, outlasting a pesky Washington Township team in four games, 15-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-16, after dropping the opening contest in a Class A Morgan Township Sectional opener.
“We talked. We moved our feet. We really wanted it,” Marquette's Ryleigh Grott said of the pivotal third game after it was tied one game apiece. “We haven't won a sectional game in a while, so we really wanted to get one.”
Following losing the first game by 10 points, the Blazers (17-14) took control midway through the next contest to capture it 25-23. Then, they claimed a highly-competitive and crucial Game 3, overcoming a 20-18 deficit to prevail 25-22.
That allowed Marquette to go ahead two games to one and seize control of the match.
“In the first set, we kind of lost our composure a little bit, mostly on the passing end,” Marquette coach Matt Zima said. “So we decided to make a couple changes, and then, that started to come around a little bit. We served a little tougher. Then started to take a couple things away, and then, just kind of grinded them down. It was just persistent, coupled with some tactical changes.
"Our team settled down, responded, and I'm proud of them."
In the first game, the Blazers built an early 5-0 cushion and seemed poised to control that contest. That lead was short-lived, though, as the Senators rallied and tied it, 6-6. Once Washington went ahead 10-9, it never trailed the rest of Game 1, pulling away to win. Marquette made countless mistakes, allowing the opposition to seize command.
Late in Game 2, Washington’s 7-2 spurt permitted it to knot the score, 22-22. After losing the next point, the Blazers were staring at a 23-22 deficit. But Marquette responded by claiming the next three points, including Jenna Kirby’s ace and a Senators’ long spike to seal the tight second game.
The Blazers followed by overcoming a few late two-point holes to capture the critical Game 3. Trailing 21-19, Kirby had a tip, followed by an ace to tie it, 21-21. Marquette closed that contest on a 4-1 run as Diana Fields won a pair of points and the team finally claimed it, 25-22, after Washington hit a tip into the net.
In the fourth contest, Marquette jumped ahead 13-6 and never looked back. It didn't let the Senators get closer than seven the remainder of the way. The Blazers won it after Julia Molina's hit to ensure the victory.
Zima said a handful of players shined for his squad.
“Our setter, Jenna Kirby had a really good game, both from the service line and setting,” Zima said. “Julia Molina did a really good job, from the service line as well.
"It was a team effort. Everybody had their moment to make a play."
Molina guided Marquette with 10 kills, while Grott recorded six kills. Kirby finished with 10 digs, to go along with 20 assists, while Ally McConnell and Fields both had 11 digs.
The Blazers meet Covenant Christian (16-12) in a sectional semifinal at about 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. The Knights downed Gary 21st Century in three games in Thursday's nightcap. Kouts (17-9) and the host Cherokees (25-5) meet at 11 a.m. Saturday in the first semifinal.
Class A Morgan Township Sectional
Marquette 15-25-25-25, Washington Twp. 25-23-22-16
The Blazers’ Julia Molina earned 10 kills.