WESTTOWN >> The odds were mounted up against the Perkiomen Valley girls volleyball team on Monday night.
A hostile road environment, a pair of dynamic outside hitters across the net and the opposition looking to make history.
All that, mixed in with the pressure of trying to earn themselves a trip to next month’s PIAA Class AAA playoffs.
The Vikings endured it all and punched their ticket to states with a 3-0 straight-set win over West Chester Rustin during their District One Class 4A quarterfinal matchup.
“We love playing in an atmosphere like this,” said Perk Valley head coach Drew Scheeler, quick to give credit to the rowdy Rustin student section. “Our girls came ready to play. A lot of it has to do with going to Pope John Paul II, going to Spring-Ford during the season. We’ve gotten used to this environment and learned how to feed off of it.”
With the win, the No. 5-seed Vikings (18-4 overall) will face top-seeded Bishop Shanahan — a 3-1 winner over Garnet Valley in a rematch of their 2015 district semifinal affair — on Wednesday night. Meanwhile, No. 4-seeded Rustin (19-3) will drop into district playbacks as the Knights still look to earn their first state playoff berth in program history since the school’s inception in 2006. They’ll face No. 8 Garnet Valley on Wednesday as four teams are vying for one final spot.
Perkiomen Valley won the opening set 26-24, that after rallying back from trailing 23-21 late. The Vikings then kept the pressure on, taking a 25-19 win in the second set and closing it out with a 25-23 win in the final set.
“In the beginning of the year, we talked about our goals and states was right at the top of the list,” said Perk Valley senior setter Ellie Min. “We came out here tonight and we knew they (West Chester Rustin) were the only ones in the way.”
The tallest task for Perkiomen Valley on the night was finding ways to neutralize Rustin outside-hitter Emma Nelson. The junior boasted a spike that could part seas and proved to be a lethal combo next to senior outside-hitter Alessia Mattera above the net.
“It starts with the serve-receive,” said Min of keeping a player like Nelson off the ball. “You don’t get the setter a good pass, you’ll end up taking her (Nelson) out too. We did a good job of keeping it away from her.”
Min finished with 29 assists while Helena Clauhs had nine kills, six digs and a pair of aces. Junior outside-hitter Sarah Straub had 13 kills while junior Lia Torrilo finished with eight. Junior libero Liz Caruso finished with 10 digs and four aces.
Senior captains Min and Clauhs were both part of PV’s last state playoff run as sophomores. And now two years later, they’ve got their team primed to make another run.
“That strong leadership showed tonight from both of them,” Scheeler said. “They both kind of know what it takes to get there and they push the rest of the girls to get to that level.”
“We’re trying to keep it going, keep our energy high,” said Min. “That wasn’t too difficult here tonight.”
In a match that Rustin played above the net, Perk Valley controlled it down below.
Nelson finished with a team-high 22 kills for Rustin while Mattera finished with 11. Senior middle-hitter Kaia Johnson had eight kills, setter Callie McGinnis posted 32 assists and Emily Supplee had eight digs and three assists.
“We’ve got a number of really good players, but everything for us revolves around Emma,” said Rustin head coach Harry Bitzberger. “She’s probably the best player to come out of this school.”
Although unhappy with the final result, Bitzberger has plenty of his faith in his players as they prepare for the district playback round.
“Everything that we’ve done this season has been the first in school history for this program,” he added. “And we’re doing a lot of good things. It’s a testament to the girls — they work hard, they’re a great team and they love playing together. We’ve just got to be ready to bounce back next round.”