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Gwynedd Mercy uses strength up front to sweep Villa Maria in District 1-AAA quarters

LOWER GWYNEDD >> Thursday night marked the third time this season that No. 6 Villa Maria and No. 3 Gwynedd Mercy Academy had met. The only difference with this matchup was that the stakes were much higher, as the winner would advance to the District 1-AAA semifinals and the loser would go home.

“We were nervous because that’s a good team,” said GMA head coach Michael Nguyen about Villa Maria “They won the AACA league and beat Mt. Said Joe’s, who we haven’t beaten all year, so we knew they were extremely dangerous and it would take a good showing from us to come out on top.”

Luckily for the Monarchs, they got a good showing and then some, as they cruised to a 3-0 (25-18, 25-21, 26-24) victory to advance.

It was a hot start that allowed GMA to control the match from the beginning. Gabrielle Greene, Lizzy Ferguson, Abigail Kress and Olivia Guinther came out firing up front and dominated the net play early on, which let them take the first game fairly easily and put Villa Maria on their heels.

Greene and Kress both finished with a team high 8 kills as setter Gabrielle DeLucca scrambled to make sure her hitters received good tight sets they could get on top of.

“Unfortunately our setter (DeLucca) is only 5’4” so she can’t get up and block but she did a great job distributing to all our hitters,” Nguyen said. “These girls grew up together, so unfortunately they’ll all be graduating this year, but they’ve all grown together as a team and gotten better as a team.”

The biggest scare of the night for the Monarchs came in the third game. Even though GMA had taken the first two, it was down 15-8, and looked a little lost on the court. That’s when Nguyen called a time out, gathered his girls and just pointed out that all the points Villa Maria had been scoring were points they were giving them and were easily correctable.

“I just called them over to talk about all the silly mistakes we were making,” Nguyen said. “Just bad passes, miscommunications, stuff that we don’t usually do.”

The team responded well, bouncing back to go on an 18-9 run to close out the third game and complete the sweep.

This was a tough loss for Villa. Not just because it ended their season but because they had to do it shorthanded after making a run to win the AACA title.

Both Emily Wynne and Christine Kovell, who were instrumental in their season, missed the match due to injury, which altered what Villa could do on the court.

“I saw a lot of energy and enthusiasm in this game from the girls,” Villa head coach Peggy Evans said. “We had a lot of injuries, and two crucial injuries right before this match (Kovell and Wynne). We had a freshman and a sophomore out there playing but honestly I couldn’t be more proud, those girls hung in there strong.”

Next up for GMA is either No. 2 Mount St. Joseph or No. 7 Sun Valley. Either opponent will surely test them, but if they get to face Mount St. Joe the Monarchs could be seeking some revenge as they failed to beat them during the regular season.

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