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Reigning state champion Garnet Valley survives first-round scare

MANHEIM TOWNSHIP >> Samantha Mann took a deep breath as Garnet Valley headed to a fifth set with District 3 champ Hempfield in the opening round of the PIAA Class 4A volleyball tournament.

It was Mann’s way of reminding herself to calm down. After all, this was her first state playoff game and the sophomore middle hitter did not want to be overly excited and make a mistake.

Meanwhile, senior outside hitter Erin Patterson played with a fire in her belly. This was not going to be the last match of her high school career.

Both strategies worked as Mann and Patterson came up big in the fifth set to send the Jaguars into Saturday’s quarterfinal with a 3-2 triumph over the Black Knights at Manheim Township High School Tuesday night.

Mann came up with a kill and a block early in the set and Patterson pounded home four kills later in the set to help the Jaguars pull out a 25-18, 25-21, 22-25, 22-25, 15-9 victory that sets up a meeting with the winner of the match between District 8 champ Allderdice and District 7 runnerup Armstrong at a site to be determined Saturday.

“We just needed to relax,” Mann said. “We needed to take breath and calm down.”

The way the Jags started it did not look like they were going to need to take a step back to assess the situation. Garnet Valley only made one service error and very few hitting errors in the first two sets. Garnet never trailed in the first set after it took a 5-4 lead on a kill by Rokosky. Patterson pounded a kill to start a three-point run to open the second set as the Jags led from start to finish.

Everyone had a hand in it. Patterson had a number of her 25 kills in the first two sets. The same can be said for Mann (15 kills), Emma Rokosky (16 kills, 12 digs), setter Rachel Cain (68 assists), Amber Goldberg (26 digs) and Jordan Gallagher (12 digs).

Ally Hartney (nine kills, two blocks), Gwen Clark (seven kills) and Julia Bowes (seven digs, one ace) made key contributions, too, especially in the first two sets. And then the pendulum switched Hempfield’s way.

”We let some little things happen,” Garnet Valley coach Mark Clark said. “That’s been something I’ve stressed with them all year. When we do all the little things right we play well. When we don’t do the little things we get hurt.”

Any hopes of a sweep, though, quickly vanished when Hempfield (19-2) rode the serving of Gracyn Krawizcki, and the hitting of Jailene Lugo and Kyle Ulrich, among others, to take the next two sets and set up a winner-take-all showdown.

“I think we got caught up in the moment and worried about no making mistakes and having the perfect kill rather than playing our game,” Cain said.

And so Mann took a deep breath, Patterson got fired up, Cain did what she did best, which is distribute the ball and the Jags dug in on defense, as usual, to stay alive. Rokosky gave the Jags the lead in the fifth set and then Mann came through with her kill and block to extend the lead to 5-3.

After Hempfield got to within 9-6, Patterson decided enough was enough and took matters into her own hands. She pounded two straight kills and four over the next six overall points to extend Garnet Valley’s lead to 13-8 and put the match out of reach.

“Erin came up with some big swings there at crucial times and it was awesome,” Clark said. “She knew what she had to do and she did it.”

She didn’t want her high school career to end.

“I was just trying to get everyone excited and to push through and finish it,” Patterson said. “I don’t know what happened. It seemed like we lost our energy after the first two games and regained it in the fifth game.”

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