UPPER PROVIDENCE >> Alyssa Cianciulli gave herself a fitting present for her 18th birthday Thursday.
It was one she was more than willing to share with her Pope John Paul II teammates: A 3-0 win over Spring-Ford on their home gym, in a matchup of top-tier Pioneer Athletic Conference programs.
The Golden Panthers rolled their neighboring rivals by set scores of 25-10, 25-19 and 25-14 in the sweep. They strung together numerous scoring runs, with the Rams’ closest bid down the stretch reducing a second-set deficit from six (14-8) to one (14-13) before PJP ran off three straight points to put itself back in control.
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“This was definitely unexpected,” Cianciulli said. “Spring-Ford has been on a streak.”
While the Panthers maintained their unbeaten (11-0) standing in the PAC, they halted the Rams’ own winning run of seven matches. It’s a point of pride for the PJP girls, who see their success in keeping with the program’s recent achievement of league and District 1 titles.
“The girls on the junior varsity and varsity see the legacy of Pope John Paul something to uphold,” Cianciulli, who had 21 digs and eight service points, said. “As it got passed down, it’s our job to keep it going.”
The first set saw the Panthers build a 14-5 lead, erasing Spring-Ford’s early 4-3 advantage. They worked their lead up to 14 points (23-9) before scoring two of the next three.
In the second set, the home team put together an 11-6 scoring edge at the end, leading by seven (24-17) near the end. The deciding third set was marked by the Panthers leading by as many as eight points (22-14) before scoring the last three for the capper.
“Volleyball is about runs,” PJP head coach Ryan Sell noted, “and I think we had some good serving.”
Myah Cordrey gave the Pope a well-rounded performance, with six kills, 10 service points and four aces. Alana Pergine had 13 kills, Mary Kate Mooney and Jordan Shemonski six apiece, Hayley Wusinich 30 assists and Shelby Horgan 10 service points.
“The serves picked us up,” Cianciulli said. “We were hoping to put the ball away.”
Spring-Ford’s statistical stars were headed by Jenna Plitnick, who had six kills and two aces; and Carly Swenson, who chipped in with seven assists and one ace. Grace Kraft had 20 digs to her credit.
“We had done well coming in,” SF head coach Josh McNulty noted, “but we never got into a rhythm. They kept our offense out of sync.”
The Golden Panthers (13-1 overall) go into a busy final week of the regular season, with home league matches against Perkiomen Valley and Upper Merion followed by a road trip to Methacton. They’ve bested those teams, and the rest of the PAC, by 3-0 scores each time out.
“It’s a goal for them, winning the PAC championship,” Sell said. “But at the end of the night, we just want to be 1-0.”
Spring-Ford, in turn, has four more matches — all on the road — on its regular-season docket: League outings against Norristown (Oct. 11) and Owen J. Roberts (Oct. 12) sandwiched by Unionville (Friday) and Henderson (Oct. 14).
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