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Spring-Ford outlasts Upper Merion in four-set epic

UPPER MERION >> Paige Dealba said she felt like crying, and she almost was.

It was that kind of night.

Spring-Ford’s volleyball team, beaten pretty handily by Upper Merion in its season opener, got revenge and a half Thursday night at Upper Merion High School, handing the Vikings their second Pioneer Athletic Conference loss of the season, 25-19, 31-29, 22-25, 28-26 in a match that had so much emotion that a crying towel vendor could have retired.

And he could have made a profit from both teams.

The Rams got their bearings, and a little confidence, taking the first set, then built on that, winning a second set that had to be seen to be believed.

It was that good.

“We’ve been playing a lot better lately,” said Rams head coach Josh McNulty, “and after we won that first set you could see us grow in confidence.”

But that was nothing compared to the second set, which saw the Rams fight off the Vikings on the court and the Vikings fans in the stands.

“That, to me, was the whole match,” McNulty said. “You get over on that side of the net and their fans are screaming at the tops of their lungs, and it can be hard to play that way.

“But the girls were tough.”

“Hearing them, it was difficult,” Dealba said, “but we did a good job blocking them out, and it was good for us to prove we could beat a really good team.”

For the Vikings, head coach Tony Funsten said his team probably lost the match with a lackluster first set.

Playing without Danielle Chung, who was injured in the warmup in the Vikings’ loss to Pope John Paul II,  Funsten said the team never was quite able to recover after the first-set loss, although the Vikings did have a great chance to break through in the memorable second set.

And after winning the third, the Vikings had a lead late in the fourth.

But it wasn’t to be.

“They won the match with their serving, they served aggressively,” Funsten said. “I thought they started tentatively, but we didn’t take advantage and it didn’t hurt them.

“Still, a point here or a point there …”

As late as the fourth set, the Vikings held a 25-24 lead.

But the Rams cranked it up, got standout play from Dealba, Jenna Plitnick and Co., and when the Vikings hit an easy volley into the net, the Rams hit the roof.

“I don’t think too many people come in here and beat them,” McNulty said, “so this was big.”

As for Funsten, he said his young team will get better.

“I liked our fight,” he said. “Our girls were doing what we asked them to do.

“Players like Emma (Andraka) were outstanding. And we’ll get better.”

But on this night, the better team was winning – and crying (almost).

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