LOWER MERION >> At the beginning of the year, the Christopher Dock girls volleyball team knew its season would likely come down to a District 1-A final matchup with Sacred Heart.
“We always knew this one, this was the hardest game of our season,” Dock senior captain Lanae Hunsberger said. “We knew we were going to have to try our best to make states.”
The Lions and the Pioneers squared off Thursday night in the district championship for the fourth consecutive season. And for the third straight season, the match went five sets, with the Sacred Heart surviving 3-2 (17-25,25-20,23-25,25-19, 15-12) to defend its district crown.
The difference in the match was Sacred Heart’s ability to stop Dock runs when it needed as the opposite was also true.
After winning the first game, Dock jumped out to 5-1 and 7-3 leads in the second game but was unable to hold on to the lead as Sacred Heart took the lead at 15-14 and never trailed the rest of the set.
A similar scenario happened in the third game, as the Pioneers once again got out to a 7-3 lead but allowed the Lions to get back into the game as the rest of the set was played in a two-to-three point window.
The killer set came in the fourth as Dock held a 17-15 lead. Sacred Heart called a timeout and proceeded to end the game on a 10-2 run.
“We’ve struggled with the mental part of the game all season,” Dock coach Trish Hoover said. “We go at teams and we’re up but then they score a couple points and then we go into a shell and become less aggressive and Dock volleyball is going at it aggressive 100 percent of the time.”
Throughout the game, Dock flexed its hitting power with hitters Molly Hand, Daphne Hunsinger and all-time careers kill leader Lanae Hunsberger. The power-hitting Pioneers were countered by floaters and drop shots by the Lions that just kept finding holes in the Dock defense.
“Defensively we knew they tipped it,” Hoover said. “We practiced it all week in preparation for this. It comes down to execution.”
Although the season ends as a disappointment, a fourth consecutive trip to the district final can not be viewed as a failure for a talented Dock team.
“I’m nothing but proud of what the girls did this year,” Hoover said. “The girls have matured in the game as player and as teammates and they’ve just been able to play so cohesively throughout the end of the season that it’s just fun to coach.”
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