Marlins take county title in volleyball

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Marlins won the Class 1A Okaloosa County Championship in volleyball Wednesday evening with a 25-11, 25-10 win over Liza Jackson. Members of the championship team, bottom row from left, are Jessica Pierce, Kiersten Martin, Brooke Henderson, Blakely York, Kyla Buehner and Ashley Bouck. Back row from left are Coach Susie Pierce, Avery Spraggings, Lauren Rice, Anna Kimball, Ellaine Wolford, Ava Smith, Ashlyn Priest and Kay Cannon. Also pictured is assistant Coach Dani Karvonen and Destin Principal Grant Meyer. The Marlins finished the season 13-2. [TINA HARBUCK/THE LOG]

It’s been a long time coming, but the Destin Marlins are back in the winner's circle.

For the first time since 2008, the Destin Lady Marlins won the Okaloosa County Middle School Athletic Conference Volleyball Champion Class 1A trophy Wednesday evening with a 2-0 victory over Liza Jackson of Fort Walton Beach.

“I was hoping we would wind up here, but we started off a little rough with two losses in our first three games,” said Destin Coach Susie Pierce.

At the beginning of the season, the Marlins put in a new and more complicated offense.

But the girls adjusted and culminated with a 13-2 record.

“We really peaked at the right time,” she said. “Our front row girls just started hitting the ball so well."

Manning that front line for Destin was Anna Kimball, Ava Smith, Blakely York and Elaine Wolford.

“They were just crushing the ball,” Pierce said. “And our setters have just been so consistent all year … such great captains. They do everything for us on the court.”

Setters for the Marlins were Kyla Buehner and Jessica Pierce.

How did the Marlins get to the championship game?

“Hard work,” said eighth grader Jessica Pierce. “I feel like we have all just got better over the season. And we just put in all the effort we needed to.”

Buehner agreed.

“All our practice paid off,” Buehner said. “We were all focused and played together and cheered for each other.”

And it was apparent that it was a team effort on the court Wednesday when they hosted Liza Jackson for the title game.

In the first game, Destin made three big runs on the Liza Jackson Lions. After swapping serves, Destin’s Buehner served up three straight for a 7-2 lead. The ball went side out a couple of times, with Destin picking up a point here and there on hits from Smith, Pierce and Kimball.

Kimball delivered a shot that got Destin the ball back for a 12-7 score. Pierce stepped up to the service line and served up four points for a 16-7 lead.

Again the ball went side out a couple of times with Destin’s Smith hammering in a shot and Buehner tapping one in for a 19-10 game. Brooke Henderson stepped up and served up five straight for a 24-10 game. Liza broke the serve and picked up a point, before Destin got the win on a tap in by Pierce.

In game two, Destin jumped out to an early lead with Henderson serving up six consecutive points for a 7-2 advantage. Liza Jackson closed the gap at 7-6, but then Destin made another run with Ashley Bouck at the service line for eight straight points and an 18-7 game.

The Marlins pretty much finished up the game with Pierce at the line serving up four points for a 24-9 lead. Liza scored one more before Destin put the game away 25-10 as the gym erupted.

On Tuesday, the Marlins beat the Meigs Wildcats in the semifinals 25-12, 25-12.

Wolford lowered the boom on several occasion as did Smith. Kimball hammered in a few points as well as blocked out the Wildcats.

In the first game, Henderson served up four points while Kiersten Martin served up five with help from Smith and Kimball. Buehner finished up the game at the service line with three straight.

In game two, Destin went up 9-5 on shots from Smith at the net and Martin serving up three at the line. Meigs closed the gap at 9-8, but then Destin went on a scoring spree with Pierce serving up four straight. The ball went side out before Destin’s Kimball lowered the boom on the ball for a point and the picked up another point on a block. Lauren Rice served up four points for 19-9 game. The Marlins pecked away with Ashley Bouck serving up a couple of points and Buehner finishing it off at the line with two aces.