LOWER MERION >> Coming into its opening round game of the state playoffs, Sacred Heart Academy seemed to be hitting its stride at the perfect time.
The Lions dominated Dock Mennonite in the District 1 Class A title game to win its first district title since 2015, then handled Parkway West in the District 1/12 championship less than a week ago. They did not lose a single game in either matchup and they continued their impressive run on Tuesday night.
Behind 10 kills and an ace from senior Juliana Michniak and a team-high 14 kills from junior Jaycee Webster, Sacred Heart Academy rolled past Halifax, 3-0 in the first round of the PIAA Class A Tournament, winning 25-12, 25-12 and 25-15.
The Lions raced out to a 12-5 advantage in the first game with Webster posting three kills during the early run. Michniak was the catalyst in the second game, tallying six kills and a block to put her team in control of the match. Sacred Heart Academy (16-8) head coach Sam Moyerman, whose team is making its sixth state playoff appearance in program history, saw his team rally behind its captains and follow their lead.
“They’ve been our captains and real leaders on the court,” Moyerman said. “I think everyone looks up to them. They’ve carried us when we’ve needed them and tonight they wanted to come in and really show what they can do.”
Michniak, who eclipsed 800 career kills in the victory, noted the grind of the season had affected her team at times during the season but they kept their composure and improved.
“We try to push each other because it’s been a long season,” Michniak said. “We’re always telling each other not to give up and to keep up our stamina throughout the season.”
Halifax (18-7) looked to be gaining some momentum in the second game. The Lions pushed their lead to 5-1 with four straight points but the Wildcats went on a run of their own cutting the lead to 6-4. Michniak recorded three consecutive kills to put her team back in control.
Later in that same game, Halifax went on another little run but Webster, who surpassed 600 career kills in the match, posted three kills and an ace while Michniak scored the final two points to close out the game. Michniak was happy to come away with a win but stressed that there is still room to improve as this state playoff run continues.
“Teams are going to get harder as we go on so we wanted to try to get through this as fast as we could,” Michniak said. “It showed us what we need to work on so when we face the harder teams we have everything covered.”
While Michniak was looking at specific areas to improve upon, Moyerman, whose team will play the winner of Marian Catholic and Canton in the quarterfinals, felt his team has had some mental lapses but knows they will get everything resolved as they move forward.
“Sometimes when we get a lead, we fall back a little bit,” Moyerman said. “They let it happen a little bit at the very end but they pushed through. Going forward, there’s eight teams after today and we’ll make sure to get things sured up.”