DOWNINGTOWN >> Bishop Shanahan and Archbishop Carroll seemed to be on their way to history Saturday night, as the two teams were participating in the first-ever outdoor volleyball match in Pennsylvania history.
But, with a large crowd on hand to watch the teams play at Jack Mancini Field, the two teams were forced indoors early in the third set due to a slick court that became a safety issue, according to the players and coaches.
“Safety was my first concern,” Shanahan head coach Greg Ashman said. “The court started getting bad and we decided we had to move it. I didn’t want to see someone get hurt on a dangerous court.”
“In the beginning of the match, the court seemed fine,” Eagles’ senior Renee Shultz added. “But by the time the coaches and officials decided to move the match indoors, I could definitely feel a difference and we were having a really hard time getting a grip.”
So inside they went. The teams, the coaches, and the legions of fans poured into Shanahan’s gym to watch the finish of a match that was tied at one-set apiece, with Archbishop Carroll leading the third set, 3-2.
Once inside, the Eagles decided to take care of business and protect their own floor, winning the third set 25-16 and, after playing a tight series of points, pulling away with a decisive 25-15 victory in the fourth set.
“We had our whole student section here and we had to defend our home court,” senior middle blocker Bre Mineweaser said. “We knew we had to take care of business tonight, we definitely couldn’t let [Carroll] come in and beat us in our gym.”
The Patriots gave the undefeated Eagles a bit of a scare early in the match, winning the first set and holding a 15-10 lead in the second set before Shanahan stormed back with a 13-0 run that helped them capture the second set and the swing momentum decidedly in their favor.
“They changed up their lineups a bit tonight,” Ashman said. “They did some things we hadn’t seen before and it took a little bit of adjusting. But once we got inside, I think our girls got more comfortable and settled into a groove.”
This was the third matchup between the Eagles and Patriots this season. The two teams played earlier this year in a pair of tournaments with Bishop Shanahan winning 2-0 in each of those games. Shanahan, who has won back-to-back district titles, now sits 19-0-1 after last night’s victory, while Carroll falls to 6-5-1.
“Playing outside was pretty crazy,” Shanahan senior Kailey Smith said. “The atmosphere was amazing and once we settled our nerves, it was a really great experience.”
Ashman first had the idea of hosting an outdoor match last season, but poor weather forced its cancellation. However, Ashman and a group of over two-dozen volunteers got together almost 12 hours before Saturday night’s contest to build the temporary court onto the football field.
“We were originally worried about the stability of the court,” Ashman explained. “But I give a lot of credit to the guys we had out there, they built something that could support a house. It’s a shame we were unable to keep the court dry.”
The court was placed on the near sideline of the football field and consisted of a sub-flooring made up of two-by-fours with a plastic-tiled “sport floor” placed on top as the playing surface.
Moving forward, Ashman believes that the outdoor game is an event that could bring some excitement to his program, provided they can make the proper adjustments to ensure a safe playing surface. However, some of his players believe the novelty of an outdoor game doesn’t out-weigh the safety risks incurred by the players.
“It was definitely a cool experience playing outside,” defensive specialist Julie Gallagher said. “But for our safety I think we should stick to playing inside. Maybe we could have a scrimmage or something outside instead.”
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