LINCOLN – Marriah Buss was simply too much for St. Paul in the Class C-1 final.
The Lincoln Lutheran standout pounded down a match-high 26 kills to power the No. 3 Warriors to a 25-27, 25-20, 30-28, 25-19 win over the No. 1 Wildcats Saturday at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
St. Paul coach Matt Koehn-Fairbanks said Buss forced St. Paul to play from behind a lot during the match.
“It was definitely a lot of Marriah Buss out there,” Koehn-Fairbanks said. “I thought we slowed her down a few times but we couldn’t stop her. Any easy ball went to her and she just slammed it down. When she gets hot, no one can stop her.”
Lincoln Lutheran coach Sue Ziegler said even though Buss had her kills, other players contributed in some way. Abigail Wohlgemuth added nine kills, while setters Paige Trutna and Ashlyn DeBoer added 25 and 22 assists.
“We rely on Marriah a lot but the balance is so key,” she said. “We had others do some key things for us at key times.”
But St. Paul didn’t make it easy for the Warriors, especially in the first set.
After Lincoln Lutheran built a 20-13 lead off of five kills from Buss, the Wildcats rallied. Josie Jakubowski did most of the damage with five kills during a 17-5 run, which included St. Paul fighting off two set points. A Warrior error and a Jakubowski kill gave St. Paul a 1-0 lead.
But Buss powered Lincoln Lutheran with 11 kills in the second to help the Warriors even the match at 1-all.
The two teams battled it out in the third after St. Paul fell behind 22-18. A Jakubowski ace serve tied the score at 23-all and the score would be tied the next five times. Buss broke a 28-all tie with a kill, then a St. Paul error gave the Warriors a 2-1 lead.
Koehn-Fairbanks said that was a pivotal point in the match.
“We were really out of it for a while and made a nice run there at the end,” he said. “It was point for point. We were just waiting for one little break to go our way and we just couldn’t get it.”
St. Paul did fight to try to extend the match. Two Jakubowski kills and a Makenna Anderson ace serve gave the Wildcats a 17-14 lead in the fourth.
But a Molli Martin kill gave serve back to the Warriors, who went on an 11-2 run to end the match with match point coming on a Trutna ace serve.
Ziegler said she expected the Wildcats to give Lincoln Lutheran problems because of their defense. St. Paul had 73 digs, led by Paige Lukasiewicz’ 16.
“They were a tough team,” she said. “They play such good defense and don’t let balls drop. They’re very scrappy. We knew that going in. There were so many times when it was hard for us to get a ball to fall but the girls didn’t quit.”
Jakubowski led the Wildcats with 19 kills, while younger sister Jenna had 11 and Teegan Hansel had 10. Olivia Poppert dished out 43 set assists. Koehn-Fairbanks said St. Paul played its heart out.
“I can’t fault my kids. They played so hard. We fought for every point and we never quit,” Koehn-Fairbanks said.
St. Paul finishes the season with a 35-1 record and losing only four sets all season, which all came in the state tournament. The Wildcats lose only Brooke Poppert and Anderson to graduation but Koehn-Fairbanks said they’ll be missed.
“We finished with the best record in school history and were in the state championship match,” Koehn-Fairbanks said. “That’s a tribute to the 14 kids who give me tremendous effort every day. And our seniors led us this year. Brooke was our fiery leader out there that we need and Makenna has played a lot of roles for us. She came out there today and played great.
“It was a great year for us and I couldn’t be any happier.”