MERRILL – Merrill volleyball coach Kris Krug says the Bluejays’ back row defensive players — Morgan Marnholtz, Ali Zamzow and Cheyanna Pyka — are the best that she has had in her 20-year involvement in the sport.
“Morgan Marnholtz is so fast in getting to the ball, Ali is digging up balls left and right and Chey as well,” Krug said. “They read so well and can anticipate an offense, and that comes from all the experience they have behind them.”
Marnholtz is the lone senior in the trio that has combined for 790 digs for the Bluejays, who face Germantown in a WIAA Division 1 state quarterfinal Thursday at the Resch Center in Green Bay.
Marnholtz, the Bluejays’ 5-foot-4 libero, was a unanimous All-Wisconsin Valley Conference selection this season, as she helped Merrill capture the conference championship.
“We’re getting really comfortable with each other,” Marnholtz said of the Bluejays’ back row. “We’re getting better communicating, and we also have that trust in each other. We have the chemistry and know what’s happening in the back row.”
Merrill was down 12-7 in the fifth set to Memorial on Saturday and at one point faced match point. What was the biggest thing that helped you get the win? Winning the first two (sets), we just did not want to lose. Even in the third and fourth games, we were behind but we fought back. We did not want to do all of that for nothing.
Talk about that trip home from Chippewa Falls: It was extremely exciting. Then when we got back in town a fire truck went in front of us, and we had a police escort behind us and our parents were following. It was really cool.
At the beginning of the year, maybe you felt this team had potential, but was there there a stretch where you felt it could be on to something special? I think a lot of us believed at the beginning of the season. We had our (team) poster theme as, ‘You won’t see us coming’. But we also had a lot of younger girls on the team that had to get that self-confidence throughout the year. But everyone believed in themselves in the end.
What’s the one characteristic that this team has? There’s a lot of drive. A lot of heart. You definitely saw that in Saturday’s game.
What is going to be the key for Merrill at state: Communication, communication, communication and not getting down on ourselves.
I know you didn’t get time on the court, but what do you remember from Merrill’s state trip two years ago? (The Resch Center) is just a really big facility, and there’s a lot fan room and the lights are brighter. It’s just that whole atmosphere of being on a bigger stage.
You are one of four seniors. Merrill is a pretty young team but hasn’t played like it: Right. I am so proud of our younger girls who stepped up this year. They don’t act like they are freshmen at all or sophomores. They’re very composed, and I’m just very impressed with their play.
You were a unanimous All-Wisconsin Valley Conference selection. What does it mean to have that recognition from the coaches in the conference? I was really honored and humbled by that.
Tim Johnson can be reached at 715-845-0731. Find him on Twitter @timmyjo11
• School: Merrill
• Year: Senior
• Family: Father, Larry; mother, Laura
• Sports: Volleyball, basketball and track
• Favorite class: Math
• Favorite movie: “27 Dresses”
• Top prep sports memory: It’s tied between last Saturday and my sophomore year, PRing in state (track) in the triple jump
• Biggest thing of being a student/athlete: Probably responsiblity. I know I have my role as a student, a role as an athlete and also a role on the team. It’s not the same role every year and not the same role on every team, but you have to find that role and fulfill it.
• Post-graduation plans: I plan on going to Concordia University and majoring in elementary education. I’m running track as well.