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Upper Merion overcomes slow start, tops Downingtown West for 3rd in District 1-4A

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UPPER MERION >> The Upper Merion girls volleyball team wasn’t sure how it would respond after its first loss of the season in the District 1 Class-4A semifinals Tuesday night.

After a slow start to the opening set in Thursday’s consolation game, the Vikings were just fine.

No. 2 Upper Merion topped No. 12 Downingtown West in four games, 22-25, 25-15, 25-13, 25-12, in the third place game at Upper Merion Area High School.

The Vikings immediately fell behind 8-1 to start the first game and maintained a similar deficit until trailing 17-10. They closed to get within one a few times — 20-19, 21-20 and 22-21 — but were never able to draw even before dropping the game, 25-22.

“It’s a first set thing for us,” Vikings senior Tori Wright said. “We don’t do too well sometimes. It was all right. I think we knew we had it. We also start off slow a lot — especially after a loss — but we got it.”

“In almost every playback situation you’ll see it,” Upper Merion coach Tony Funsten said. “Who recovers first? They recovered faster from their loss to (Bishop) Shanahan than we recovered from Garnet (Valley) at home — maybe because we lost at home. They recovered faster and got off to a quick start — it was 8-1 — but we played our way back in. We did. We started to make headway. We didn’t win it, but then we turned the tide and just went from there.”

The roles were reversed in Game 2. Upper Merion scored the first three points and built a 13-4 advantage before cruising, 25-15, to even the match, 1-1.

“They were probably a little flat from their loss the other night,” West coach Dave Parrish said of Upper Merion, “and it took them a while to get into their ball-handling. We were executing pretty well, they were a little flat, but as they started to get the timing of things and getting more touches on the block and meeting our hitters a little bit, they started getting into their rhythm. Once they got their ball-handling under control in that first touch, that’s when they started executing their offense and they’re very good at that.”

The hosts remained dominant in Game 3. They led 9-3 early and 18-10 a little bit later before ratting off six straight points with Kelly Moore serving. The Vikings closed out the game, 25-13, to go ahead, 2-1.

Game 4 was more of the same. Before you knew it, Upper Merion was ahead 14-4 and counting the points until the match was over. Wright finished the set and match off with a kill, 25-12.

She led Upper Merion with 19 kills. Moore had 39 assists, Emily Gallagher 25 digs and Dannielle Chung 11 kills. Jada Peoples added eight kills with no errors.

Audrey Jones led the Whippets with 15 kills and added two aces. Aly Reardon had seven kills and two aces, Hailey Lewis seven kills and two aces and Lea Fillidore 20 digs.

The win gives Upper Merion District 1’s No. 3 seed in the state tournament, which begins next Tuesday.

“We knew that the third seed was definitely important,” Wright said, “but it was probably more important to just get a jump start on states with a win.

“I think we all feel rejuvenated and ready to go. Even though I didn’t want the loss, I think it was good for us to take one.”

Downingtown West will be the No. 4 seed in states.

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