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Carroll’s well-healed, seeks a payback from Shanahan

RADNOR >> The last time Morgan Silks went against Bishop Shanahan, things did not go well for her or her Archbishop Carroll volleyball teammates.

Silks suffered a sprained ankle when she crashed into the referee’s stand during the outdoor match the teams played under the lights on the football field at Shanahan Sept. 23 and proceeded to miss the next two weeks of the season.

A little while later freshmen setter Meaghan McCann left the match after being hit in the head so the Patriots were without their top two setters. Still, Carroll  took the first set and had a 15-10 lead in the second set when Silks suffered her injury. The Eagles rattled off 13 straight points and used that run to take a 3-1 victory over the Patriots, winning 24-26, 25-19, 25-16, 25-15.

So if anyone has a right to be looking for a little payback when the Patriots (20-2) and the Eagles (23-0) square off in the quarterfinal round of the PIAA Class 4A tournament Saturday morning (11:30) at Souderton, it’s Silks.

“I’m looking forward to this match,” the senior setter said before practice Friday.

Silks, though, isn’t alone in that line of thinking. Everyone who was on the team a year ago is looking for a little revenge. Shanahan ousted the Patriots from the PIAA tournament in the quarterfinals last year with a 3-0 victory. The Eagles also defeated the Patriots twice in tournament play this year, once at Garden Spot and again at Parkland.

But revenge isn’t the only motivator for the Patriots.

“This is an opportunity to go further than we have in the past,” said Silks, the MVP of the Catholic League.

“It’s more about just going and playing, and having fun,” added All-Catholic libero Gina Custer. “This may be my last game every for Carroll volleyball so it’s kind of sad at the same time. I’m just going to go out and give it my all and hopefully all of my teammates will do the same.”

The Patriots face a daunting task. Shanahan is ranked No. 1 in Class 4A by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association and ninth in the latest MaxPreps Xcellent 25. The Eagles have beaten Parkland twice in tournament play and have dropped just seven sets total in full best-of-5 matches. Carroll, Hempfield, Emmaus (two), Rustin, Garnet Valley and Nazareth are the only teams to take a set from Shanahan.

Carroll is fifth in the PCAVB Class 4A poll.

“They’re good, but we feel we’re at the same level as they are,” Silks said. “We have to play our game and we’ve been doing that. We’re ready.”

“We can’t make any mistakes,” libero Gina Custer added. “We can’t have hitting errors or anything like that. We can’t give them easy points.”

The key, Silks said, is staying loose. She credited nervousness as a factor in the previous meetings so the Patriots need to stay loose and have developed a little routine to help them settled down. Instead of playing music on the team bus to away games, the team sings songs instead.

“Somebody starts singing and everyone jumps in,” Silks said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

And what if no one knows the chosen song?

“That person sings solo or we go to the next song,” Silks said.

The sing-a-long has served the Patriots well. Carroll takes a 13-match win streak into the rematch with Shanahan. That includes seven straight wins on the road or on neutral courts.

“We’re playing great and we’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Carroll coach Brian McCann said. “We played them three tough sets last year. We were up 24-21 in the first set, but we couldn’t close it out. The second set was back and forth and the third set was 26-24 so we’re right there.”

In other Class 4A action:

Garnet Valley vs. Armstrong >> It’s another long bus ride for the defending PIAA champions as the Jaguars head to Shippensburg High School to take on the No. 2 team out of District 7 at 1:30 Saturday afternoon.

Armstrong’s only losses were a 3-2 setback to Oakland Catholic in September and a 3-0 decision to North Allegheny, the No. 2 team in the PCAVB Class 4A top 10, in the District 7 championship. The River Hawks (19-2) bounced back from that loss with a 25-12, 25-13, 25-12 victory over District 8 champ Allderdice in the opening round of the PIAA tournament.

The Jaguars (18-5) advanced to the quarterfinals for the second year in a row with a 3-1 win over District 3 champ Hempfield. Great defense and big swings from Samantha Mann and Erin Patterson in the fifth set enabled GV to pull out the victory.

In the Class A quarterfinals:

Sacred Heart vs. Marian Catholic >> This is the second meeting between the Lions (16-8) and the Fillies (21-0) in the last three years. Marian Catholic took a three-set victory (25-22, 25-13, 25-17) on its way to a second-place finish in 2015.

Marian Catholic has won six straight District 11 titles and has been to the PIAA Class A final five times, winning in 2003 and 2013, and finishing second in 2005, 2014 and 2016. The Fillies are led by outside hitter Jasmine Mooney. The 6-0 senior has 428 kills and a .363 hitting percentage. Setter Gianna Agosti sets the offense in motion. She has 741 assists, an average of 9.3 per set. Mooney and Agosti earned first-team all-state honors from the Pennsylvania Coaches Association last year.

Led this year by Catholic Academies All-Star Juliana Michniak, the Lions (16-8) have won seven of eight District 1 Class A championships.  

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