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Upper Merion goes down fighting in state quarterfinal loss to Parkland

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Upper Dublin >> Upper Merion went down fighting in its 3-0 loss to District 11 champion Parkland in the PIAA 4A quarterfinals Saturday at Upper Dublin High School.

After hanging close to Parkland most of Game 1 before dropping a 25-17 decision, Upper Merion battled back from a 7-3 early deficit in Game 2 to tie the score at 16-16, and the lead subsequently changed hands seven times before Parkland won, 29-27.

What made the Game 2 defeat particularly hard to take for the Vikings was that Upper Merion (25-2) held leads of 24-23, 25-24 and 27-26, but didn’t put Parkland away. Game 2 featured some long, game-saving volleys on both sides.

“We’re not the biggest team in the world by any stretch, but we don’t quit,” said Upper Merion head coach Tony Funsten. “We accomplished what we did tonight and this season with defense, desire and hard work, and I couldn’t be prouder of our team today.”

Upper Merion’s Emily Gallagher (4) is able to send the ball back into play after hustling to the baseline in a PIAA playoff game against Parkland on Saturday night.
James Beaver/For Digital First Media

In Game 3, Upper Merion again battled back from deficits of 13-5 and 18-11 to get to within 24-22.

“When you play a great team like Parkland, you have to win one of the first two – when they were up 2-0, they came out as loose as could be, were very, very aggressive and put us on our heels,” said Funsten. “But we didn’t quit in the third game.”

Parkland had to fight for the final point to pull out a hard-earned 25-22 win.

For Upper Merion, senior outside hitter Tori Wright had 12 kills Saturday, senior OH Danielle Chung tallied eight kills, senior setter Kelly Moore dished out 30 assists and senior libero Emily Gallagher had 24 digs.

“It’s a shame we lost, but congratulations to Parkland, and it’s the end of an incredible year for us,” said Funsten, who just completed his 25th year as head coach of the Vikings.

Upper Merion’s Jada Peoples (5) awaits a serve from Parkland in a playoff game from Saturday night. James Beaver/For Digital First Media

One highlight for Upper Merion was capturing its first PAC title Oct. 18, defeating five-time defending champ Pope John Paul II 3-0 in the championship final.

The Vikings did not suffer defeat until the District 1 4A semifinals, where they lost to Garnet Valley, 3-1. Upper Merion then defeated Downingtown West, 3-1, in the third-place game.

On an individual basis, Wright broke the school kill record formerly held by two-time all-state selection Emma Andraka. Wright, who is headed for the University of the Sciences next fall, broke the school record by more than 300 kills, and is currently one of the leaders in Pennsylvania in that category.

Another senior, Moore, finished with more than 2,000 career assists, and dished out close to 1,000 this year.

Funsten pointed out that four of the Vikings’ seniors – Wright, Moore, Chung and Katelyn O’Brien – have played varsity for Upper Merion since their freshman year, and that two other seniors – Gallagher and Cam Brady – joined the UM varsity as sophomores.

“For them, this season was kind of a culmination of 3-4 years with us,” said Funsten. “They were a close-knit group that worked hard.”

Upper Merion’s Jada Peoples (5) awaits a serve from Parkland in a playoff game from Saturday night. James Beaver/For Digital First Media

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