ROYERSFORD >> As if the Spring-Ford-Perkiomen Valley neighborhood rivalry game needed an excuse to get a bit more rowdy, the Rams hosted the Vikings in their Dig Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Game on Monday night.
And the atmosphere inside Ram Gymnasium didn’t disappoint.
Spring-Ford controlled the first two sets, then rallied after dropping the third set to claim a 3-1 win over Perk Valley.
“I told them before tonight, ‘This could be a season-changing game,’” said Spring-Ford head coach Josh McNulty. “A lot of our matches came down to just a couple points, and we couldn’t close them out. We wanted to change that.”
Monday’s result as proof, it looks as though the Rams may have changed their fortunes.
The win improves Spring-Ford to 6-1 in the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Liberty Division and 11-4 overall. With its first inter-division loss, Perk Valley drops to 6-1 against Liberty opponents and 14-3 overall.
“You take down the No. 5 seed, that could certainly bump you up to Top 10,” McNulty added, in reference to the District One power rankings. “We’ve got to build off this one. We’ve been playing the higher up teams in the district — Upper Merion, PJP, Perk Valley twice, (West Chester) Rustin — so we’re playing high quality teams and we’ve kept them close all along.”
Spring-Ford pulled away late in a tight first set to claim a 25-21 win, then controlled the second set on the way to a 25-20 decision. It was all Perk Valley in the third set, though, as the Vikings won 25-8 before falling 25-21 in the fourth and final set.
Senior Alexis Palucki finished with 12 kills — including the match-ender in the final set — to go along with three digs and five blocks while junior Grace Kraft posted 20 digs, including the 1,000th of her career. Senior Carly Swenson had 31 assists and six kills while Olivia Olsen had seven kills and seven digs.
Kraft noted that the atmosphere made all the difference in her team’s win — especially after dropping the third set.
“When we got down, the student section picked us right back up,” she said. “It’s really fun to play in a game like this, in front of a crowd like this. This win will definitely help us as we get later into the season.”
After the first two sets, Perk Valley began to utilize its size above the net.
The Viking defense began to contest every shot above the net, racking up plenty of blocks while Spring-Ford’s offense struggled to find any sort of footing.
“We’re a big team, so we always try and use our size to our advantage,” said Perk Valley head coach Drew Scheeler. “We wanted to neutralize some of their big hitters, like No. 15 (Olsen). We got some momentum, but you’ve got to give it to Spring-Ford. They didn’t let that third game get them down. They came right back.”
“Persistence,” said McNulty. “We told our setter that we had to move the ball around a little bit more. We were letting them (Perk Valley) establish their blocks and their whole front row is 6-0 tall. That’s hard when I’m putting some of my smaller hitters up against them.”
Spring-Ford got on a roll in the fourth and final set and rode it to the finish. The Rams put together a six-point swing late, charged up by Palucki’s momentous block to make it 22-18.
Perk Valley senior Helena Clauhs had 11 kills and 17 digs while Ellie Min posted 29 assists and 12 digs. Sarah Straub had seven kills while Liz Caruso had 11 digs.
The night’s Dig Pink event was kick-started by Spring-Ford junior Gabby Hegedus, whose mother, Karen Hegedus, is battling Stage 4 Metastatic breast cancer.
“I’ve got to give all the credit in the world to Gabby and Karen,” said McNulty. “They set this whole thing up and ran with it. They got a great turnout and I’m happy I was a part of it.”
All proceeds benefitted local breast cancer organizations including ‘Unite for Her,’ ‘For Pete’s Sake,’ and ‘Cleaning For A Reason’ as well as the national ‘Side-Out Foundation.’
Prior the game, members of Spring-Ford walked out alongside family members, friends and faculty members who have battled cancer during their lives. Among those honored were Kelly Olsen, Theresa Kuha, Pat Kurpis, Larissa Dorminy, Sandy Hertweck, Connie Iannetta, Joy Rubeo, Kristin Williams, Kelly Mikulski and Karen Hegedus along with Michelle Jadzak, Walter Gacek and Mitsu Ide.
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