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Shanahan digs out win against Carroll as ‘redemption tour’ rolls on

FRANCONIA >> Archbishop Carroll would eventually get the point in the second set Saturday, but more important was the read that Bishop Shanahan had gleaned on its opponent’s attacking intentions.

Archbishop Carroll’s Audrey Jones goes up for the spike ahead of the block of Bishop Shanahan’s Michaela Devlin, 28, and Tess Elder, 12, during the PIAA Class 4A quarterfinal Saturday at Souderton. Shanahan claimed a 3-1 win. (KIRK NEIDERMYER | PA Prep Live)

Fourteen times the ball crossed the net in the middle of the second, finally ending in Carroll’s favor when Shanahan’s Renee Shultz buried an off-balanced attack into the net. But six times in the point, Carroll’s dynamic outside hitter Audrey Jones, who had wreaked havoc in a first-set win by the Patriots, saw swings dug by the Shanahan defense — twice by libero Julie Gallagher and a ludicrous four by Mia Caporellie.

Even if it didn’t yield an immediate payoff, the Shanahan defense was adapting to the Carroll attack. And with Jones neutralized, the District 1 champions had responded to the sternest test Carroll presented.

The defense spearheaded a 3-1 win for Shanahan over District 12 champion Carroll in the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class 4A volleyball tournament at Souderton. Shanahan rallied from a 25-17 loss in the first set to take the next three, 25-21, 25-13 and 25-19.

“The first set, I think we definitely weren’t connecting and playing together as a team, but that second set, we knew what we had to do,” Gallagher said. “We knew we had to pick each other up, cross on our seams and not let any balls drop.”

The win lands Shanahan (24-0) in the semis against Parkland, which rallied from a set down to upend Exeter, 3-2, Saturday. It’s the second straight year the Eagles have eliminated Carroll (20-3) at this stage.

Bishop Shanahan’s Tess Elder gets some air for the hit during the PIAA Class 4A volleyball quarterfinals Against Archbishop Carroll. Elder led Shanahan with 13 kills in a 3-1 win. (KIRK NEIDERMYER | PA Prep Live)

The attacking contrasts grew starker as the game progressed. Jones dominated the first game with nine kills on 17 errorless attempts, establishing to a Carroll team haunted by Shanahan in recent years that it could hang with the Eagles.

“It just means that we stuck right up there with them,” setter Morgan Silks said. “We played our game, and when Audrey swings like that, no one can stop us.”

Though Jones collected a match-high 21 kills, her influence waned, thanks to the Shanahan defense. At one juncture of the second set, around that marathon point, Jones had 10 straight attacks returned by Shanahan. With Jones and Paige Monastero (12 kills, 15 digs) offering Carroll’s only two outside hitting threats and the Patriots incurring a distinct height disadvantage in the middle, Carroll’s path to the floor was often blocked by a pair of active Shanahan hands.

“Carroll’s a very good team,” Gallagher said. “They’ve definitely improved since the last time we played them. But I think it mostly had to do with our side of the court and what we know how to do. We weren’t doing what we knew we had to do (in the first set), and I think we gained the confidence back on defense.”

Shanahan turned the tide on offense with its most unique weapon: Setter Schultz, who at 6-foot dwarfs most at the position. Her verticality opens windows for quick-strike kills in the attacking repertoire. She put away six to go with 40 assists and 10 digs, and the jarring change of pace preyed on a defense keying to deny Shanahan’s passel of outside threats.

“Today Carroll did a really good job of reading that and defending that, so I give them props for that,” Shultz said. “But usually when I find success in doing that, it builds momentum for the team and it’s something to change the pace, but in a way it’s using all of our options, using all of our weapons.”

“It’s something you’re going to make a mistake on defensively, the first time definitely,” Gallagher said with less modesty. “Good teams will read it, but she really changes it up, finds that open spot, and it really throws a team off.”

Tess Elder buried four of her team-high 13 kills in the second set, while Julia Thomas added four of her seven. Thomas tallied four blocks, while fellow middle block Michaela Devlin fired six kills, including the final two to close out the third set, with two blocks. Kailey Smith notched three of her 10 kills in the third set, and Brooke Burns turned in three big kills in the fourth, part of eight kills and 21 digs, illustrating the varied danger Shanahan presents.

“That’s definitely tough,” Silks said. “Everyone’s trying to be in base and be ready, but they just know where the seams are and how to get around us.”

Gallagher (22 digs) and Caporellie (15 digs) led the Shanahan back line.

Gina Custer came up with 17 digs for Carroll. Meghan McCann added 14, Morgan Silks 12 and Amelia Painter 10. Molly Masciantonio bashed six kills, including four in the fourth set to keep Shanahan in touch. Painter stemmed the tide of a Shanahan run that created an eight-point cushion, and Carroll broached as close as 17-14.

But for Carroll’s hopes of avenging last year’s states ouster and a regular-season loss this year, Shanahan has made the t-shirt-worthy theme of “Redemption Tour” into a mantra all season. And the Eagles are two wins away from a perfect ending to that quest, the next step a rematch against the team that bounced them last year.

“They definitely wanted revenge. They’re definitely an aggressive team,” Gallagher said of Carroll. “They don’t let balls drop, but I think that we just know that we’ve got to keep building. It’s ‘redemption tour’ for a reason. We have to gain that title back.”

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