UPPER MERION >> The Upper Merion girls volleyball team defeated Abington in three sets Tuesday night, 25-20, 25-17, 25-21, at Upper Merion Area High School in the first round of the District 1 Class AAAA playoffs.
The first two sets started very similarly. The No. 10 seed Vikings jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the first set and a 7-3 edge in the second.
After that, the two took very different turns.
The No. 23 seed Galloping Ghosts tied the game at 13 in the first set. Upper Merion then won two straight points on a Tori Wright kill and a Wright ace to take a 15-13. The Vikings scored six of the next nine points — finished off by an Emma Andrake kill and ace — to extend the lead to 21-16.
Abington rattled off three straight to force an Upper Merion timeout, but the Vikings scored four of the last five points to take the first set, 25-20.
After getting off to a 7-3 lead in the second set, Upper Merion kept its foot on the gas. They maintained a comfortable lead throughout — with the closest score being 15-10 — before taking a 2-0 lead with a 25-17 second-set victory.
The third set was a wild one. The teams traded most of the early points with Upper Merion holding a 9-7 advantage.
The Ghosts responded with eight straight points — seven coming when sophomore Fabiola Gonzales was serving — to take a 17-10 lead.
“She’s one of our consistent servers,” Abington coach Jea Lee said of Gonzales. “We are a good, consistent serving team, but tonight it just didn’t go our way.”
“I think that — especially with this team this year — after we win games we sometimes play down,” Wright said. “That definitely happened in the third set.”
Upper Merion roared back, scoring 10 of the next 12 points to take 20-19 lead.
After the game was tied at 20, the Vikings scored five of the final six points and finished the 3-0 sweep, 25-21.
“We’re definitely very good at closing out games,” Wright said. “Especially close games — that’s our specialty.”
Wright knows a thing or two about closing out a set. She scored the final point of the first set and the final two points of both the second and third sets.
“Actually yes I do very much (pride myself on finishing sets),” she said. “I like to score the last point. I like to just be like I’m going to get it. Usually it works out.”
Wright tallied a team-high 20 kills for Upper Merion. Andrake added 17 kills and a team-high 13 digs.
The Vikings advance in the district tournament to face No. 7 seed Downingtown East on the road Thursday at 7 p.m.
The loss brings Abington’s season to an end.
“I’m very proud of the way we played,” Lee said. “Going into the game we wanted to make sure that we had a very strong defensive front. We definitely changed the trajectory of their hits. I’m very proud of the way we played today. That was a very good season.
“Hats off to Upper Merion. I respect what coach Tony (Funsten) does for this program — consistency. He’s Mr. Consistent. He’s Bill Belichek.”