EXETER >> They could have cried or bickered or even blamed an official or two.
But, instead, Saturday afternoon. the Plymouth Whitemarsh girls volleyball team was smiling a collective smile.
The Colonials’ 2016 season was over late Saturday afternoon, courtesy of a 25-18, 25-20, 19-25, 25-17 loss to Parkland in the PIAA Class AAAA volleyball playoff quarterfinals, but PW was proudly looking back over the season with pride.
They had gone farther than any other Colonials volleyball team in recent memory, they had done it as friends and now they were looking behind them with no bitterness – just pride and friendship.
“We’ve never gone this far since I’ve been here,” said senior Olivia Carbo, “and just getting here was memorable.
“We came away with something more than just playing our last game.”
Along the way were the memories, the emotion-packed, five-set win over Upper Merion, the appearance in the District One final and a ton of friendships and good times had along the way.
“(Parkland) is very talented, and we didn’t give up, we played hard to the end,” Carbo said.
The Colonials began like an upset was in the making, running off six of the first set’s seven points and grabbing the early lead.
But the Trojans recovered quickly, and behind the play of Sam Graver (27 kills), and Mia Jago (16 kills), they were soon in the lead and not in the mood to look back.
“We knew (Plymouth Whitemarsh) had a very strong defense,” said Parkland head coach Mike Krause, “and we were concerned about their blocking.
“We’re young, we really only have one senior that plays a great deal, so part of our goal is to make our young players focus on the things they have to do.”
Parkland overcame its early difficulties, rallied for a 25-18 first set win, and then kept going.
The prime motivator for the Trojans was Graver, who excelled despite the Colonials’ attempts to take her out of her game.
“We were trying to do what we could to keep her from hurting us,” said Colonials head coach Seely Byler. “We were trying to stay away from her, but she kept showing up and she wound up getting some important points for (Parkland).”
Meanwhile, the Trojans kept up their torrid pace, and pulled away from PW, turning a shaky 19-17 second set lead into a 25-20 second set win.
When PW jumped out to a large lead in the third set, the Trojans considered stopping play, but their coach decided he wanted his young players to develop some in-match maturity.
“In that second set, we needed a timeout,” Krause said. “I didn’t call it because I wanted our players to figure out things for themselves.”
The Colonials went on to win that third set, but Parkland led comfortably throughout the fourth set, ultimately pulling out the set and advancing to the state semis.
PW, however, remained smiling.
“We knew they had a strong team, and they showed that today,” said PW’s Lauren Coscia. “We’ll all go on to our winter sports now, but we’ll remember this team.
“And we’ll be around to support it in the future.”
“I couldn’t be prouder of this team,” Byler said. “We had a fantastic season, and I’ll always remember this group.”