CONCORD >> It was just another day at the office for the Garnet Valley girls volleyball team, another 3-0 victory in a string of sweeps.
The Jaguars knocked off Lower Merion, 25-14, 25-18, 25-18, to stay perfect in every way. GV is 10-0 overall, 7-0 in the Central League and has not dropped a set.
That’s mighty impressive when you consider that the Jaguars opened the season against a Penncrest team that reached the PIAA Class 3A state tournament a year ago and also beat a Villa Maria Academy squad that got to the Class 2A semifinals.
Yet it’s not that much of a surprise when you look at Garnet Valley’s varsity roster. There are 12 names listed on the roster, nine are seniors who have been together since middle school.
“That makes a huge difference,” Garnet Valley coach Mark Clark said. “They provide so much leadership and that helps the underclassmen so it’s not rebuilding as much when they’re gone as it is reloading.”
Clark isn’t ready to say goodbye to his senior class just yet, even if Senior Night is scheduled for Wednesday’s showdown with Conestoga, the only other team that hasn’t lost a Central League match. And he knows the Jaguars have a lot of tough matches to come, including Friday’s showdown with Avon Grove. Garnet Valley is ranked fourth in the Philadelphia region by vbcoaches.com while the Red Devils are ranked sixth.
The Jags also have dates with No. 1 Bishop Shanahan (Oct. 5), No. 8 Upper Merion (Oct. 10) and four more league games including an Oct. 10 showdown with Strath Haven.
“We’ll find out a lot about ourselves this week,” Clark said.
The seniors aren’t ready to leave, either. They’re on a mission. They were sophomores the last time the Jaguars won the Central League title. They want to put another year on the championship banner that hangs on the south wall in the gymnasium.
“(Winning the championship) is everything to us,” senior co-captain Meagan Scott said. “There was pressure on us to do it last year, but I think that we were still getting used to the grind of being on the varsity. We’re ready for it this season. We’ve worked hard on and off the court, on the school team, with our club teams, in clinics, practices, tryouts and weekends. We want it so bad.”
It’s not work when a team likes one another and this team is close. The seniors have been together since middle school and many play on the same club teams when they’re not wearing the garnet and white.
“We’re a team in all aspects,” senior co-captain Sydney Portale said. “We’re close friends. We really like each other and I think that’s why we play well together.”
That camaraderie shows on the court.
“If the ball goes in one direction, everyone’s chasing it,” Clark said. “They work well together. That’s what I like about this team. Our defense has been stellar and if Gab (setter Gabby Davis) doesn’t get to a second ball, one of our defenders is there to set the hitters. We had a number of attacks today where Gabby didn’t set it, but we still attacked the ball because our defense is playing so well. “
Lower Merion hung tough in each set, but as has been the case, the Jaguars seemed to pick just the right moment to take control. Garnet Valley went on an 12-1 run in the first set to turn a 9-5 lead into a 21-10 advantage. The Jaguars used a 10-4 burst to break the set open and a 7-2 swing to take control of the third set.
Of course, the seniors led the way. Scott was strong on defense with four digs and one ace. Portale, Nicole Loan and Cassidy Gallagher led the attack with 28 combined kills. Loan had 14, Gallagher eight and Portale six. Portale also had three digs and three aces.
Davis set the table, as usual, with 37 assists and libero Lizzie Herestofa, the third of the tri-captains, spearheaded the defense with 13 digs and three aces.
“We want to leave a good legacy for the people coming up,” Herestofa said. “We want to make our last season our best season.
In other Central League action:
Strath Haven 3, Penncrest 0 >> The Panthers kept their hopes alive for the Central League title alive with a 25-17, 25-17, 25-23 victory over the Lions.
Bree Fisher and Casey Blum led the attack with 13 and 12 kills, respectively. Emma Golato set the offense in motion with 37 assists.
Conestoga 3, Ridley 0 >> Melanie June and Jackie Kelly had 20 digs each and Maria Brown had six kills for the Green Raiders. The Pioneers won 25-23, 25-8, 25-12.
Radnor 3, Springfield 1 >> The Cougars made the Raiders work to pull out a 25-22, 25-10, 20-25, 25-14 victory. Senior Brianna Ellis led the way for Radnor with 13 kills, five assists, three digs, two aces and one block.
Sophomore Izzy Criscuolo added nine kills, two aces, two digs and one block. Junior Carleigh Goldstein contributed 11 assists, five aces, four kills three digs and one block for the Raiders (7-5, 5-2).
Marple Newtown 3, Upper Darby 0 >> Setter Hannah Roberts collected 17 assists, five kills, five aces and five digs to help the Tigers get back on the winning track with a 25-13, 25-19, 25-15 victory. Liz Conca was strong in the attack (10 kills) and on defense (12 digs). Jenna Cooper added 10 digs and two aces.
In the Del Val League:
Chichester 3, Penn Wood 0 >> Julia Miles did everything, as usual, as the Eagles topped the Patriots on senior night, 25-16, 25-14, 25-18. Miles had eight kills, six assists, four digs and four aces.
Senior Caitlyn Jones pitched in with seven assists. Fellow senior Samantha Falcone added seven kids, five kills and four aces.
In nonleague action:
Sacred Heart 3, Academy Park 0 >> Hannah Martinson helped the Lions reach the .500 mark with a 25-14, 25-15, 25-23 triumph over the Knights. Martinson dished out 26 assists and had four aces.
Juliana Michniak pounded nine kills, recorded eight digs and had five aces. Jaycee Webster chipped in with nine kills for Sacred Heart (5-5).