Downingtown East roars back to knock off Henderson

WEST CHESTER — Downingtown East was served notice by West Chester Henderson that Thursday’s night’s Ches-Mont League volleyball contest might be a long one after winning the first set. But, the reigning Ches-Mont league champs roared back to capture the match in four sets, 18-25, 25-22, 25-14 and 25-19, to improve to 4-0 in league play.

The match did not start out the way the Cougars were drawing it up on the bus ride over to West Chester. Head coach Peggy Hopton tweaked her lineup and it took a little while for the team to click.

Henderson came out with momentum at home and took the first set with captain Hailey Adler leading the charge.

“When Henderson came back on us in the first set, the girls looked surprised,’ Hopton said. “I’m not sure why because every team is out here fighting but I think we lost our confidence.’ Whatever Hopton said in between sets worked because the East girls came into the second set with renewed confidence. With the dominant frontline of Lauren Mueller and Margot Gargus leading the way, the Cougars came back from a 15-10 deficit and won the set with a 15-6 run. Mueller led the Cougars with eight kills, while Gargus added five herself.

“It’s all about our enthusiasm,’ Mueller said. “We have a really strong connection this year which helps out a lot but we have been starting to get down early in the matches but we find a way to always come back and win it.’

The third set was much of the same; East pounced on Henderson early, scoring the first nine points of the set forcing coach Greta Neff to call timeout. Mueller gave the Cougars a 12-5 lead with a booming spike set up by Jennifer Matzo. Downingtown East was controlling the net play and seemed to catch Henderson in the wrong spots on many occasions. Gargus finished off the set with a nice hit from the outside; Cougars took the set lead with a 25-21 win.

“Lauren Mueller is our priority hitter, she is a fantastic overall player,’ Hopton said. “Margot is our second outside hitter, she hits with pace and has a lot of nice shots, I am proud of both of them.

With the Cougars riding a momentum wave, they came out in the fourth set looking like a team that was clicking on all cylinders. Brooke Dugan supported the front line with a few timely digs, and with the nice setups from Maddie Hammer they were well on their way. They won the fourth set, and the match, 25-18.

“It’s so much fun, we are having a blast this season,’ Mueller said. “We are hoping to defend our title as Ches-Mont champs. That’s our goal, set the bar high and hope to fulfill it. I’m glad we finished the match playing the way we did; rather than the way we started. It’s been tough this year, every single match is a battle. There is a lot of parody in the Ches-Mont this year.’

Downingtown will take their undefeated league record to Coatesville on Monday afternoon. Henderson falls to 2-2 in the league and 4-2 overall.

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