First-year coach John Grossman liked what he saw as he watched his Strath Haven volleyball team warm up before Monday’s Central League semifinal showdown with Penncrest.
The Panthers were hitting the ball hard and appeared to be ready. They were not.
“We came out tense,” Grossman said. “We had six or seven service errors in the first set.”
Strath Haven dropped that set, but the nervousness did not last long. Strath Haven bounced back to take the next three sets for a 3-1 triumph over the visiting Lions.
“Once we calmed down and started to serve the ball the way we can, we were fine,” Grossman said.
Strath Haven (11-6) recovered from that 25-20 loss in the first set to win, 26-24, 25-10 and 25-17 to advance to the league championship game for the seventh year in a row. The defending league champion Panthers will meet regular-season champ Garnet Valley in the championship Wednesday night at a site to be determined.
It will be the fifth time the Panthers and Jaguars have squared off for the league title. The two teams have combined to win the last six championships.
A strong attack set the tone for the Panthers. Brianna Fisher led the way with 20 kills. Casey Blum had 14 kills and Rachel Kent added 10 kils. Grace Sullivan chipped in with 15 digs and eight aces, while Emma Golato handed out 44 assists.
“We’re starting to click,” Grossman said. “We’re where we need to be.”
Nikki Gargiule (23 assists), Diana Balta (15 digs, eight kills), Jordan Schuler (11 digs, five kills) and Megan Arndt (14 digs, four kills) kept the Lions in the match. In the end, though, the Panthers were too much.”
“They’re tough,” Penncrest coach Jen Carney said of Strath Haven. “They have scrappy players and credit goes to them. They played really well.”
In nonleague action:
Notre Dame 3, Conestoga 1 >> Elise Butler collected nine digs, seven kills and five aces in a 24-26, 25-15, 25-12, 25-23 victory for the Irish (12-4, 6-0 Inter-Ac). Allison Henderick added 10 kills and six aces, while Maddie Donaphon paced the defense with 12 digs.
Sun Valley 3, Chichester 0 >> Ryan Vickers accumulated six kills, four digs and one ace as the Vanguards won, 25-9, 25-21, 25-21. Megan Lynn (five kills) and Liz Boccella (11 digs) also came up big for SV.