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Gwynedd Mercy outlasts Pope John Paul II in AAA final for 1st District 1 crown

LOWER MERION >> The Gwynedd Mercy Academy gym will soon have a new decoration.

“We always look at the banners on the wall and we’re like, ‘man, where are all the volleyball banners? We gotta get one up there,’” said the Monarchs’ Lizzy Ferguson. “Now we finally do.”

That’s because the Monarchs earned a 3-1 victory over perennial power Pope John Paul II Thursday night in the District 1 Class AAA Final at Harriton High School, giving GMA its first ever district crown in girls volleyball.

ANNE NEBORAK-DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA Gwynedd Mercy's Gabrielle DeLucca serves the ball.

Gwynedd Mercy’s Gabrielle DeLucca serves the ball during the District 1-AAA final against Pope John Paul II on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. (Anne Neborak/Digital First Media)

“It’s so great. I’m so proud of everyone on my team,” said Ferguson, who had 14 kills in the victory. “We have such a great connection on and off the court and I think we really brought it tonight. I’m just so proud of them.”

With each set tightly contested, third-seeded GMA took the first set 25-22 and then the top-seeded Golden Panthers took the second, 25-19. In what would be the pivotal set of the night, the Monarchs rallied from as many as six points down to take the third set, 27-25, and then closed it out, 25-23, in the fourth set.

“It was intense. We were just on the wrong end of it,” said Golden Panthers coach Ryan Sell, whose team had captured three district titles in the past five years. “Game Three, I thought we were all right. And (GMA) made a really nice run on us. They won the passing and the serving game for sure.

“We struggled to side out a little bit. It came down to passing and serving and they passed and served way better than we did.”

At the heart of that was Monarchs setter Gab DeLuca, who led the way with 35 assists.

“She did a great job. She was putting balls right where they needed to be,” Ferguson said. “We were hitting them down.”

Ferguson rounded out her performance with three solo blocks, a defensive dig and a very noticeable presence on the court.

“Lizzy’s her own party. She’s a great person and has a fun personality,” GMA coach Mike Nguyen said. “Lizzy made the team as a freshman and everyone gravitated towards her because of her energy, her positivity and her work ethic.”

Abigail Kress complemented Ferguson at the net, adding 11 kills and hitting the floor for 14 digs. The Monarchs won a long rally to close out the third set and then held on to clinch things up.

Pope John Paul II, which fell one win short of the district crown for the second straight season, got 12 kills from Alina Ralston and 11 from Mary Kate Mooney. GMA and PJP now both get ready for state play.

“We’re going to try to learn from it — that’s all we can do,” Sell said.

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