CHELTENHAM >> On the bus ride to Bishop McDevitt High School, Archbishop Carroll kept things loose.
The Patriots’ road trip tradition is nothing too out of the ordinary.
“We just sing,” sophomore Paige Monastero said.
The whole time?
“Sure,” Monastero said.
And who’s the best singer?
“Kate Masciantonio,” Monastero, referring to her senior teammate. “Molly (Kate’s sister) is, too. They have that twin thing.”
Carroll didn’t treat its short commute from Radnor to Cheltenham Township any differently than a random regular-season match in mid-September. Tuesday was a big deal, but the Patriots didn’t show it.
Well, they sung it.
In their PIAA Class 4A tournament debut, the Patriots weren’t too concerned about their first-round opponent, Pennsbury. The Catholic League and District 12 champions cruised to a 3-0 sweep, 25-12, 25-16 and 25-14.
There was no doubt as to which team was better. The Patriots (21-2) controlled the tempo from the outset.
“We all have the same rhythm,” said Monastero, who was a dominant force on offense (16 kills, three assists) and defense (four digs, three blocks). “We’ve been playing with each other for a while now. I’ve been with most of these girls for two years. We know where everyone is supposed to be (on the court).”
That much was evident. Coach Brian McCann’s team resembled a well-oiled machine, poised to redeem itself from last year’s early exit in states.
However, McCann doesn’t allow his players to rest on their laurels.
“Throughout the whole match, I just kept saying to them, ‘We’re not that good’,” he said.
Interesting tactic …
“It’s to keep them going,” McCann said. “And they played very well. That was as clean [a match] of volleyball as we’ve played all year.”
That’s a scary thought for the rest of the PIAA Class 4A tournament bracket. The Patriots advanced to the quarterfinal round Saturday to face District 1 champion Bishop Shanahan (a winner over Nazareth), which eliminated them from last year’s state tourney.
Sophomore middle blocker Aubrey Jones was an unstoppable force in the first set, when she compiled roughly 10 kills and three blocked shots. The Falcons stayed within arm’s reach, but Carroll eventually pulled away to claim an easy win in the first set.
Morgan Silks, a do-everything senior setter/opposite hitter, often presented her teammates with perfect opportunities for kills.
“We just wanted to be the best that we could be and we wanted to play our game,” Silks said. “This game meant a lot to us. We lost to Shanahan in the second round last year, so we want another chance at a state title.”
Silks’ game was silky-smooth as she stood her ground in front of the net and led the way with a team-high 20 assists.
“It feels good to leave it all out on the floor, especially when you’re able to set up teammates like that and you’re able to score,” she said. “It springs a whole great feeling on the whole side of the court.”
Pennsbury threatened, briefly, at the start of the third set. The Falcons notched four straight points to grab an 8-4 lead. McCann called a timeout to regroup. The Patriots responded with an 11-0 run and rolled the rest of the way. Monastero seized control, recording a bevy of kills in the final stretch.
“That first set, when we won, the score was obviously pretty high but we knew they were going to come back because they’re better than that,” Silks said. “We had to stay with them and finish our game.”
The Patriots hope they can sing the same tune after Saturday’s match as they inch closer to a state title.
“Every single kid had a great game,” McCann said. “I have enjoyed these kids in my first four years. This is my senior class. It was a struggle the first couple of years … but the cool thing is, these kids have taken ownership of the team. I have to direct once in a while, but a lot of it is the kids, directing traffic out there. What we really preach is to take ownership of the game, and that’s what they do every time out.”