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Five-game toughness delivers Garnet Valley a state championship

By Eric Millinder
For Digital First Media

JOHNSTOWN >> In a fantastic display of tenacity and talent, the Garnet Valley Jaguars rallied from down a game to win its first PIAA Class 4A volleyball championship, 3-2, over Parkland Saturday at Richland High School.

On paper, it did not look like the Jaguars had much hope against Parkland, the two-time reigning state champions. But on the court, Garnet Valley made the victory look like anything but an upset.

Garnet Valley players Meagan Scott (15), Lizzie Herestofa (27) and Sydney Portale (15) celebrate after the final point in Garnet Valley's 3-2 win over Parkland in the PIAA Class 4A volleyball final Saturday. (For Digital First Media/Tami Knopsnyder)

Garnet Valley players Meagan Scott (15), Lizzie Herestofa (27) and Sydney Portale (15) celebrate after the final point in Garnet Valley’s 3-2 win over Parkland in the PIAA Class 4A volleyball final Saturday. (For Digital First Media/Tami Knopsnyder)

“We came in here thinking that, if we played our best, we could definitely beat them,” Garnet Valley setter Gabby Davis said. “We really played our hearts out. We just kept pushing and pushing and played the best we could. We worked so hard to get here. I think the reason we won is because we just wanted it so badly.”

Davis, a senior, led her squad with 48 assists and chipped in nine digs. Nicole Loan tallied 14 kills and four blocks.

The Jaguars again did their damage defensively. Lizzie Herestofa came up with 42 digs, joined in double figures by Sydney Portale (15), Amber Goldberg (13), Cassidy Gallagher (12) and Meagan Scott (11).

Jaguars coach Mark Clark thought the tough road his team took to the final helped it rally to win games four and five.

“The last two matches, we went five,” Clark said. “Against Baldwin, we were down 0-2 and came back to win 3-2. The other night (against State College), it was 2-2 and we won game five. The game five experience definitely helped us.

“My girls really stuck together.”

Garnet Valley set the tone with a win in the opening set. The Jaguars won eight of the first 11 points with kills from Erin Patterson, Julianne Hurley, Portale, Loan, and Gallagher.

Parkland rallied to get back within two points at 12-10, but the Jaguars went on another mini-run to build a 15-11 lead.

Garnet Valley's Nicole Loan delivers a shot over the net Saturday. Loan accounted for 14 kills and four blocks in the Jaguars' 3-2 win over Parkland in the PIAA Class 4A final. (For Digital First Media/Tami Knopsnyder)

Garnet Valley’s Nicole Loan delivers a shot over the net Saturday. Loan accounted for 14 kills and four blocks in the Jaguars’ 3-2 win over Parkland in the PIAA Class 4A final. (For Digital First Media/Tami Knopsnyder)

Parkland rebounded with a 5-2 run to get within a point at 17-16, but Patterson responded with two consecutive kills to give her squad a four-point advantage. Patterson’s kill gave Garnet Valley the game, 25-19.

Garnet Valley used that momentum to jump out to an early 9-4 lead in the second frame, but Parkland (24-2) turned it into a classic frame.

Parkland took its first lead of the game as senior outside hitter Sam Graver rattled off five kills to give the Trojans a 21-20 lead on the way to a 29-27 win.

Game three saw Parkland jump out to an early lead but the Jaguars battled back. Paced by three kills and a block from Grace Steurer, Parkland rallied for a 2-1 edge.

But Garnet Valley wasn’t done yet, building a 10-7 edge in the fourth game on kills from Patterson and a Davis service ace.

The teams traded the lead twice before Garnet Valley took control with a five-point run that was highlighted by another ace from Davis and a Hurley kill. Portale took a set from Davis and delivered a spike to give Garnet Valley the win, 25-20.

In the final game, Garnet Valley fell behind 2-0 early but rallied with a four-point run and won 12 of the next 16 points to open up a 12-6 lead. Patterson delivered two straight kills to make the score 14-7.

On the first championship point, Parkland’s Steurer kept her team’s hopes alive with a kill.

But Davis delivered her last assist after Herestofa’s final dig in a magnificent performance, and Patterson drove home the spike to give Garnet Valley its first title.

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