Stewartville's Paige Tapp and Marshall's Marshall's Jessica Baker and Kenzie Beekman battled at the net during the Class 2A championship game on 11/12/11. Marshall won the championship in four sets.
Marshall is back in its comfort zone, even if it was a little uncomfortable at times getting there.
Making its 23rd state volleyball appearance a year after being upset in the quarterfinals, the top-seeded Tigers ousted feisty No. 3 seed Stewartville 23-25, 25-23, 25-19, 25-20 Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in the Class 2A finals.
It's Marshall's fourth state championship, and it earned every last point of this one.
Up 20-12 in the first set, Marshall (30-4) allowed Stewartville to roar back thanks in part to six consecutive points served by Liz Waugh.
"We talked about effort a little bit," Marshall coach Dan Westby. "We knew we weren't going to be able stop their kids -- what great players -- but we let one get away. And I thought beyond a few points after that, we had great effort."
Stewartville (26-7) put together late charges in each set. There were 19 tie scores in the match.
"We just couldn't do enough," Stewartville coach John Dzubay said. "They had too many weapons, [but] our players don't quit. They were just the better team."
Marshall, which also won titles in 2004, '07 and '09 and has played in five other state championship matches, got a balanced effort in the setting game.
Sydney Griffin (37 assists), Jessica Baker (12) and Rachel Snow (11) helped four different players finish with double-digit kills.
Morgan McKittrick finished with a match-high 24 of those, including three of the final four points to close out the championship.
She walked off the court with a large scrape above her right hip, a testament to the hard-fought battle.
"We play our best when we're together as a team and for a while we got away from that but we found it again," said McKittrick, who also had 21 digs and three service aces. "I think we might have been a little nervous at first, but once we got that out we were fine."
Maybe. But it sure wasn't easy.
"No, you don't expect that at all," Westby said. "Had we won the first set, it might have been easier but this is the state championship. You should have to earn it."