Determined Strath Haven rolls on

NETHER PROVIDENCE — Some losses linger longer than others. A season ago, Strath Haven bowed out in the second round of the District One volleyball playoffs to Sun Valley. A Central League title only made the early exit that much worse.

“It still hurts,’ said head coach Kevin Haney, now in his 14th season at the helm of the Panthers. “Our goal is to get back to states. It won’t be easy, especially with Garnet Valley and Penncrest in our league.’

Monday night, Strath Haven continued its strong march back to the playoffs. The Panthers (10-1, 5-0 Central League) dispatched Upper Darby (3-7, 0-4) in three games by scores of 25-10, 25-16, and 25-15.

Lopsided affairs are nothing new to the dominant Panthers. Haney uses the games as an opportunity to rotate through the lineup as well as prepare his team for the challenges down the road.

“We’re continuing to build on team concepts,’ he said. “We need to believe that we can make good plays against any opposition.’

Strath Haven’s depth shined at home Monday. Bree Fisher and Maura Gibbs led the Panthers with a modest six kills. Captain Ellie Steif contributed 14 assists, while Maddie Caspari added 11 helpers. There was no one standout performance — a fact that defines this Strath Haven squad.

“We have a team that has a lot of depth,’ Haney said. “We can play any girl in any situation. It’s a next-man-up philosophy. We take a full advantage of our talent, and we’re fortunate that we can play everybody.’

The Panthers also feature a strong mix of youth and experience. Steif and co-captain Kara Pell lead a group of nine seniors that is bolstered by eight underclassmen. Gibbs and Caspari are both juniors, while Rachel Kent, a sophomore, swayed the second game with back-to-back kills when the score was at 17-13 in Strath Haven’s favor.

“We have a ton of experience and we’re all friends,’ Pell said of the Panthers’ team chemistry. “It’s a good thing for the younger players to learn from.’

To hear Pell tell it, though, that friendship can cause problems as well.

“We’re a goofy group,’ she said. “We’re such good friends on and off the court that some times we have trouble focusing in really important moments. Our experience helps.’

Strath Haven’s seniors have been together since seventh grade. That togetherness shows on the court where the Panthers are constantly talking. “We’re always communicating and we’re always on the same page,’ Steif said.

Even when the Royals took early leads in the second and third sets against Strath Haven, they were quickly wiped out by a stronger opponent, or in this case, an older opponent. Upper Darby carries just three seniors on its team.

“When you have a younger team, you try to figure things out as you go. We’re trying to get our players in the right positions,’ Royals coach Tara Schaeffer said. “They hung with (Strath Haven) tonight. They played them tough. We tried to step up. I thought our girls played well.’

Junior Evie Shanefield led Upper Darby with six kills and six blocks. April Hinkle had 12 assists and Marissa Campuzano added six defensive digs.

Although her goals are rooted in the postseason, Steif is doing her best to stay grounded in the present.

“I mean, I want to go as far as we can,’ she said, “but I’m trying to make the most my last season. I always hear about how fast it goes by. I want to slow it down.’

Elsewhere in the Central League:

Penncrest 3, Lower Merion 2: Diana Balta and Emily Hopkins each posted 18 kills as the host Lions rallied from a two-game deficit the Aces in five sets (20-25, 17-25, 25-12, 25-21, 15-11). Bridgette Devlin finished with a team high 31 digs, while the Gargiule sisters also had strong efforts. Gianna contributed 25 assists while Nikki had 17 to go with five kills. Penncrest improves to 11-2 overall, 6-1 in the Central League.

Garnet Valley 3, Springfield 0: Elise Cummings’ 38 assists sparked the Jaguars to their fifth league win in as many tries as they swept aside Springfield (25-19, 25-12, 25-17). Kiley Price and Brianna Plush finished with 10 and nine kills respectively to lead the offense. Jenna Hostetler (16 digs) and Christina Duko (7 aces) led a strong defensive performance for Garnet Valley (11-1, 5-0).

Ridley 3, Harriton 0: The Green Raiders improved to 3-2 overall, 3-6 in the Central League with a shutout of Harriton (25-16, 25-12, 25-6). Lindsay Glavin (18 assists), Amy Staiber (four aces, 10 digs), and Melanie Malseed (10 kills) all played well for Ridley in the win.

Haverford 3, Radnor 1: The Raiders took the opening game, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the Fords (21-25, 25-9, 25-8, 25-16). Brianna Ellis, Cassie Maz, Megan McGrath, Michaela Parrish provided strong serves for Radnor. Sarah Wannenburg, Sarah Harper, and Becca Goldberg also played well in defeat.

Conestoga 3, Marple Newtown 1: The Pioneers handled the Tigers in four sets, 19-25, 25-20, 25-16, 26-24. No other details were provided.

In the Del Val League:

Interboro 3, Pann Wood 0: The seniors led the way as the Bucs dispatched the visiting Patriots in three games. Veronica Royer had four aces and four assists, Brandi James had six aces and two kills, and Alayna McGrath contributed two aces and two assists for Interboro.

Chichester 3, Academy Park 0: The Eagles took care of the Knights in three games (25-18, 28-26, 25-18). Maddie Thornton (five kills, seven digs), Becca Civera (seven aces, eight digs), Melissa Ferrara (seven assists), Julia Miles (four aces), and McKenzie Troutman (five kills) all played well for Chichester.

In nonleague play:

Chester 3, Delaware Valley Charter School 0: The Clippers took all three games (25-18, 25-15, 25-21) to earn their second win of the season. Shamyiah Cottman (four aces, five assists, 11 kills) and Yamilette Garcia (five aces, eight assists, eight kills) led Chester (2-4) offensively, while Shanae Willias and Whitney Short blocked two shots each on the defensive side.

Sacred Heart 3, Baldwin 1: No details were reported.

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