Pope John Paul sweeps Lansdale Catholic

LANSDALE — No matter the situation, Grace Dawson is confident the Pope John Paul II girls volleyball team can handle it.

“I don’t think we get too flustered,” said the Golden Panthers senior setter.  “I think we’re able to keep our ground and pursue with the game.”

Dawson helped her side rally out of some late trouble in the second game with host Lansdale Catholic Monday night. Down 22-20, she served the final four points – one coming on an ace – of a 5-0 run that gave PJP a 25-22 win a 2-0 lead in the match.

“I think it gave us a lot of momentum,” said Dawson of the late rally. “I think we’re a very good balanced team that can come back from that. I think serving is definitely a big game-changer for us.”

The Golden Panthers proceeded to comfortably finish the sweep in Game Three, avenging last year’s loss to the Crusaders in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals with a 3-0 (25-21, 25-22, 25-16) non-league win.

“I just like the way our kids fight,” Pope John Paul II coach Ryan Sell said. “I think they always think they have a chance to win. And in my opinion we do, cause we have a lot of good kids.”

Dawson finished with 33 assists, 12 digs and four aces, while Kelly Tornetta paced PJP with 11 kills, Nicole Dorman added another 10 kills and Alexa Difilippo made a dozen digs.

The contest between two of the state’s top Class AA squads  – Pope John Paul II came in ranked third, was LC was tied for 10th in the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association’s latest poll – was also Lansdale Catholic’s Dig Pink Night, which raised funds for the Side Out Foundation. Teams and fans wore pink T-shirts, while LC also donned pink jerseys in support of breast cancer awareness.

“We were so pleased with the turnout. And this is such a great event,” LC coach Joann Pisch said. “And hat’s off to Pope John Paul, they supported the event, they bought the T-shirts, their parent contributed. It really showed two Archdiocesan, Catholic high schools coming together for a great cause tonight.

Chase Wassel paced Lansdale Catholic with 12 kills, while Ego Onu collected another seven kills. Kaitlyn Kushman finished with 12 digs and nine assists.

The Crusaders beat PJP in four games in last year’s state quarters before falling to eventual AA champ Delone Catholic in the semis. If both teams can win their respective districts – LC in 12, Pope John Paul II in One – a rematch would be in the PIAA first round thanks to changes in the 2A bracket.

Pisch, however, is not looking that far down the road.

“Our goal this year with this young team has just been how are we did week. We haven’t really set long-term goals, so it’s all about where are we right now,” I just said to the girls we’ve taken three steps forward, and this is a little step backwards tonight.

“Hat’s off to (Pope John Paul II), the pace of the game is not what we’re used to. That pace is not in the (Philadelphia Catholic League) right now. So, we’ll matchup OK with our PCL opponents, I think. But tonight Pope John Paul showed us why they’re third in the state right now because they play at a really fast pace.”

The Crusaders, who have won the past two PCL crowns, get back in league play Tuesday hosting Neumann-Goretti at 6:30. Pope John Paul II ends its regular season at home against Spring-Ford 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

“It’s a huge victory. I think we came in here with a lot of confidence and just looking for a big win like this,” Dawson said. “I think it gives us a lot of confidence going into states and districts.”

Lansdale Catholic held an 18-15 edge in Game 2 before the Golden Panthers came back to even the set at 20. The Crusaders collected the next two points, but lost control of the game and match from there.

An unforced error by LC gave Pope John Paul II the 23-22 lead, with a Dawson ace setting up game point. Dorman got a ball through a block for the 25-22 win.

“We missed five serves in the second set,” Pisch said. “And I just said we had five kill error and five service errors, and I said you’re never going to beat a team like Pope John Paul when you give them those points. And credit to them they played strong tonight. They served well, they hit well, they defended well. They looked like the champions that they are, that team.”

In Game Three, PJP held a 9-6 lead before the Crusaders rallied to pull level at 10. But the Golden Panthers put the match away with a 7-0 run – the last six points on Dawson’s serve – to go up 17-10.

Lansdale Catholic got within six at 19-13, but the visitors ran off the next three points for 22-13 advantage en route to a 25-16 Game 3 victory.

Pope John Paul II used another 7-0 run to take control of the opening game. This time, the last six points came during Megan Clerico’s serve as the Golden Panthers turned a 6-3 deficit into a 10-6 lead. The Crusaders keep things close and got within a point three times late – the last time at 21-20 – but PJP held on for a 25-21 win.

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