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Pope John Paul II falls to West York in state quarterfinals

EXETER >> When championship-level teams lose, fans tend to look for an explanation — a call went the wrong way, a coach or player didn’t perform up to standards — anything to ease the sting of the defeat.

That wasn’t the case for Pope John Paul’s Pioneer Athletic Conference and District 1-AAA champion volleyball team Saturday. After their 3-1 season-ending state quarterfinal loss to West York, everyone seemed to agree it just wasn’t the Golden Panthers’ day.

Tasia Thomas and Gianna Krinock combined for 30 kills in leading District 3’s West York Bulldogs (24-2) to a 25-19, 25-16, 19-25, 25-19 decision over PJP, ending the Panthers’ season at 17-5.

The match started on a bad note for PJP, as six service-faults doomed the Panthers in the first set. The uncharacteristic errors continued in the second stanza, and after a bounce-back third set, the imposing defense of West York proved too much to overcome in the final set.

“We just never got rolling today,” lamented PJP coach Ryan Sell. “We were missing serves, making mistakes we don’t usually make. You’re not going to get away with that against a team as good as West York.”

The Bulldogs’ height advantage at the net was also a deciding factor, neutralizing several PJP opportunities and creating numerous points off blocks.

“Defense wins championships,” summarized West York coach Joe Ramp. “Ours was strong for those first two sets, then we kind of let down a bit in the third set. Sure enough, as soon as we got back on track we were able to come out on top.”

The Bulldogs move into a state semifinal set Tuesday with Allentown Central Catholic. For the Panthers, a championship season comes to an end a little sooner than they would have preferred. Season-ending losses are always the toughest, but considering the circumstances, the mood around the program was fairly upbeat.

“We had a ton of kids get their first varsity experience this year,” added Sell, “so I’m optimistic. Things are looking good for next year.”

Mary Kate Mooney, one of two Panthers seniors, led the way with 10 kills in her final game.

“This season was more than I could have asked for,” she summarized before echoing her coach’s sentiments for the future.

“These girls are fighters, they’re hard workers. They won’t stop until they’re back on top,” Mooney predicted. “(PJP) will continue to be a championship team.”

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