PARKVILLE, Mo. — Maren Mair’s journey back to a volleyball court in Platte County was worth the wait.
A 2015 Platte County graduate, Mair played her second collegiate season but first season since being named freshman of the year in the Kansas Jayhawk Conference two years earlier. She established herself as Park’s top middle blocker this season, so far recording 187 kills and 78 blocks for the No. 7-ranked Pirates.
The quest for Park’s second national championship in the last four seasons starts Tuesday, Nov. 28 at Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa after Mair helped lead the Pirates’ to the American Midwest Conference title earlier this month.
“Maren made us much better, right away, in our blocking game,” said seventh-year Park volleyball coach Mike Talamantes. “It’s been a long time since we had anyone get close to 20 solo blocks in a season, and she’s got 19 before the national tournament. Her progression this year has been fun to watch.”
Mair became the fourth Missouri Volleyball Coaches Association all-state pick in Platte County history as a senior, leading her high school Pirates to the Class 4 quarterfinals and a program-best 33-3-2 season. She initially signed with Johnson County (Kan.) Community College where she excelled in her first season.
For personal reasons, Mair stepped away from the game but returned this season at Park.
Mair made an instant impact and recorded eight blocks in the AMC postseason tournament championship match. Second-seeded Park beat No. 9-ranked Columbia College in four sets to earn its second tournament title in the past four seasons.
Prior to the victory, Park had never won a postseason match and had only three wins in total against Columbia — one of the most dominant programs in all of NAIA volleyball.
In only 32 matches, Mair has become known for stepping up against the nation’s best. She shut down Tina Medanovic, one of the NAIA’s best and most efficient hitters, in a win over No. 12-ranked Missouri Baptist, and Mair repeated the task in the AMC semifinals, limiting Medanovic to just six kills in a three-set win to advance to the championship match.
“Blocking here, it’s really about the great pin hitters we have that set the spot for me to get those blocks,” Mair said. “In the championship match, Columbia just kept swinging in the middle, and it felt good to have that kind of match against a team that good.”
After knocking off Missouri Baptist, Park avenged their only conference loss this season, beating Columbia in the first, second and fourth sets to earn an automatic bid to the NAIA National Championship. The Pirates will play pool play matches on Nov. 28, 29 and 30, and bracket play begins Dec. 1 with the round of 16.
Quarterfinals are in the evening, Dec. 1 with the semifinals the next morning and the national championship match Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. Park won the national title in 2014.