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Mann back on track, Garnet Valley in state semis again

Garnet Valley's Samantha Mann, blocking a shot against Upper Merion, came up big or the Jags with 12 kills and nine blocks in a 3-0 victory over Cumberland Valley in the quarterfinal round of the PIAA Class 4A volleyball tournament.
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EXETER TWP. — Samantha Mann admits she wasn’t on top of her game in Garnet Valley’s last two matches, a three-set loss to Bishop Shahanan in the District 1 Class 4A girls volleyball tournament and a three-set victory over Emmaus in the opening round of the PIAA tournament.

Yet the 6-4 junior middle hitter/blocker knew exactly what she had to do to get back on track.

“The last two games I was more worried about my mistakes rather than pushing through,” Mann said. “I knew I had to get that out of my head and be there for my team.”

District 3 champ Cumberland Valley can attest that Mann, and all the Jaguars, were zoned in Saturday night. Mann’s presence in the middle and Garnet Valley’s overall resilience powered the Jaguars to the state semifinals for the third year in a row with a 3-0 victory over the Eagles at Exeter High School.

Garnet Valley’s reward is a rematch with defending Class 4A champion North Allegheny Tuesday night in the semifinals. The site and time of that game has not been determined, but the teams played at State College last year.

The Tigers knocked off District 6 champ State College, 6-1, to stay undefeated. North Allegheny rallied for a 3-2 victory over the Jaguars in the semifinals last year en route to the title. GV had a 2-0 lead in the match.

“I’m very excited about that,” Mann said. “I really wanted a rematch with them.”

Mann did her part with 12 kills, nine blocks and a .688 hitting percentage in the 25-19, 25-22, 25-20 victory. Garnet Valley’s resilience played a key role, too.

Garnet Valley (21-3) trailed in all three sets. The Eagles (17-3) had a 5-1 led in the first set, a 13-6 advantage in the second and were up 14-11 in the third. The contributions in all three comebacks were many. Ally Hartney had nine kills, four digs and a block. Dolce Whitwell collected eight kills, two blocks, two digs and had a .500 hitting percentage. Emma Rokosky had seven kills, six digs, two blocks and one ace. And All-Delco setter Rachel Cain set the attack in motion with 33 assists to go with three dig.

“They really showed the amount of fight that they have,” Garnet Valley coach Greg Wood. “They really dug down deep and fought back. I’m really proud of them.”

The turning point was the serving of Rokosky and Gwen Clark. Both were on the service line as the Jaguars went on a 12-2 run to turn a 13-7 deficit into a 19-15 lead. Rokosky was at the line for five straight points to make it close. Clark had an ace in a 5-0 burst that gave the Jaguars the lead for good.

Rokosky relied on her experience to get her through that pressure-packed moment.

“In last year’s game against North Allegheny, I was serving in the fifth set when they had game point,” Rokosky said. “That situation taught me a lot to stay calm because I knew I had to serve and get the points for my team.”

Clark came up big again. She was at the service line with the Jags trailing, 14-12. And eight-point run later and Garnet Valley was in front for good.

“Once you start going you just get in a rhythm with it,” Clark said.

That rhythm, and Garnet Valley’s resiliency, has the Jags in the semifinals again, and a rematch with North Allegheny. GV won the first two sets, 27-25 and 25-23 before the Tigers rallied and took the final three sets 25-19, 25-16, 20-18.

“We know them well,” Wood said. “They’re an extremely talented team. Heidi Miller (the North Allegheny coach) said it was the greatest match she’s ever been a part of an I agree with her. … It’s going to be tough, but we’ll be ready.”

“We’re excited to play them,” Clark added. “But it’s not about revenge, but it’s about getting to the finals.”

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