EXETER >> In a season of firsts for Sacred Heart’s volleyball program, it seemed appropriate that they’d have the opportunity to be the first team to knock off the state’s No. 1-ranked Class A squad.
“We’ve accomplished so much this year,” Sacred Heart coach Sam Moyerman said. “We finished in the top-four of the AACA this year, we beat Gwynedd Mercy Academy for the first time. We knew taking on Marian Catholic would be our biggest challenge yet.”
So it proved to be, as top-rated Marian stayed undefeated and rolled into the Class A state semifinals via a 3-0 victory over the Lions. The sets count was 25-23, 25-11 and 25-15 as the Lions’ season ended at 16-8 overall.
After a see-saw first set that concluded on a could-have-gone-either-way out of bounds call, Marian Catholic was never threatened, as the Fillies were led by a dominant, team-wide service performance that featured 14 aces (six by Jasmine Mooney). The 22-0 Fillies move into the state semifinals against District 6 runner-up Bishop Carroll, who dispatched Covenant Christian in straight sets earlier Saturday.
“It doesn’t really matter to me who we play,” Marian coach John Fallabel said. “We know that whoever we play will be gunning for us.”
They won’t have much choice. Marian Catholic has depth and star power, each of which were on display Saturday. Mooney led the way with 18 of the squad’s 30 total kills, with Toni Galasso adding 15 digs. Any team that hopes to upend the Fillies would be well advised to start strong, as Sacred Heart found out. After the tight first stanza, Marian Catholic ran out to leads of 12-3 and 14-4, respectively, in the final two sets.
“I thought we were excellent in game one,” Moyerman said. “We were right there with them. But they got on those runs in games two and three, and that was really difficult to overcome. They’re relentless.”
The Lions were led by junior Jaycee Webster, who contributed nine kills and six digs in the losing effort. The contest marked the final game in the Sacred Heart career of senior Juliana Michniak, who surpassed 800 career kills in the opening game of the state tournament.
Moyerman said he hopes the triumphs and setbacks the squad experienced will help them going forward to build on their breakout season.
“I’m really proud of my team,” he said, “and I thought we played tremendously well. We overcame some injuries, and everyone around our program’s been very encouraging the entire time. Our goal is to always keep improving.”