Having drawn NCC champion McCutcheon in their Sectional 7 opening contest on Thursday night at Bill Green Arena, Dara Richards and the Giants knew they would have their hands full with a talented and gifted Mavericks’ squad.
While McCutcheon ultimately won the match, the Giants showed heart, grit, and fight in a 3-0 loss (7-25, 10-25, 9-25).
“I told them from the beginning, ‘My goal for you is for us to be able to walk away from this match feeling good about how we played,’” Richards said. “‘I just want you to go out there and be proud of it. Do the best that you can and fight the entire time.’”
The Mavericks rolled out a plethora of strong offensive options, including Chloe Chicoine, Sheridan Phillips, and Ryley Brown, who attacked the gaps in Marion’s defense and used their superior size to their advantage.
The Giants held a brief lead early in the first set at 2-1, but the Mavericks quickly settled into their gameplan, outscoring Marion 24-5 the rest of the way to take the one set lead.
In the early stages of the second game, the Giants went toe-to-toe with the Mavericks, overcoming an early four-point surge to keep within five points. Sophomore Aniyah Rogers, who has shown tremendous growth in all facets of her game, recorded a kill and an ace in the second set, and Richards was pleased with her performances throughout the evening.
“I feel like Aniyah has come a long way,” Richards said. “She was only dressing varsity to start with, [and then] moved to a full-time varsity role. She got thrown in there a couple of times, and she has really stepped up to that challenge.”
However, armed with a 15-10 lead, the Mavericks ended the second set on a 10-point run, grabbing a two-set advantage in the process.
McCutcheon kept the pedal down in the third set, scoring the first seven points and then 12 straight points to secure the three-set sweep and end the Giants’ season.
Rogers, Issy Leach, Alyssa Lockwood, Isabelle Bento, Aylivia Mellon, and Kamaria Bruton each finished with a single termination. Lucia Persinger dished out five assists, while Mellon and Sophia Phuong co-lead the defense with five digs apiece.
While the wins were scarce in Richards’ first year at the helm, the Giants’ record did not indicate how much they developed as a group over the course of the season. The losses of Persinger, Bento, and Mellon will certainly be a blow for Marion, but a young, talented core, one loaded with potential, will elevate the Giants’ program to new heights in the coming seasons.
“It might take a little bit of time, but I do think that there has been some growth. That’s what I told them in the locker room,” Richards said. “I said, ‘Despite the outcome, you guys need to be proud of the growth that we’ve had as a team.’ It doesn’t necessarily show up on our record, but there are people that are noticing it in the community. That’s something to be proud of.”