Hatboro-Horsham holds off Mount St. Joseph in District 1-AAA opener

HORSHAM — It might be time to tighten up those shoe laces and secure those knee pads. Because if the rest of District 1-AAA tournament is anything like the first round for the Hatboro-Horsham girls volleyball team, it is going to be a grueling week of rally scoring showdowns.

The 12th-seeded Hatters were handed everything they could ask for and more against the 21st-seeded Magic of Mount Saint Joseph. The purple played fearlessly and poured a little fairy dust on the second game and had the Hatters sweating in the other sets. However, eventually the home team took care of business on Tuesday.

“As much as you try to avoid the nerves and the jitters it is hard to do that,’ Hatters coach Kathy Tanner said. “I think having so many seniors worked against us. They know this is their last opportunity.’

The 3-1 (25-21, 21-25, 25-22, 25-23) win pushed the Hatters (14-5) into second-round action, four wins away from the coveted District 1 Championship. They are also three wins away from a state tournament berth. The Magic’s season ended with an 11-10 overall record.

“We got close, got over, they got over and we got over again,’ Tanner said. “But we have been in this situation before. We came around.’

In the opening set, the Hatters brushed off opening round jitters and a 13-8 deficit to earn the 25-21 win. The Hatters were led by their senior group of Candyce Riley, Dymond Black, Alexa Kennedy and Sam Jones. The experienced group just found a way to right the ship when things were spiraling out of control. They beat the Magic 3-0 earlier in the season, but this was not the same team.

“The first game we were a little shaken up,’ Jones said. “We talked about not underestimating this team. I think we were all a little nervous. We needed to wake up.’

Mount coach George Trabash was not going to let another lead slip away again without talking it over. For second straight game, his team held a 13-8 advantage over Hatboro-Horsham. While the first game ended in the Hatters’ favor, a time out in Game Two turned fortunes around and evened the contest in the Hatters’ Box.

“The pain of being down is not worth it,’ Tanner said. “We never want that pain of losing a five game match again. I am really proud that we were not our best, but we found a way to get the job done.’

The Mount continued to counter punch. It was all Magic early in the fourth game as they opened up a 14-6 advantage, but the last thing the Hatters wanted was there season coming down to a fifth match in the opening round. The Mount, as an underdog, could not think of a better spot to be. However, suddenly, the Hatters had the score at 19-18 and avoided the shortened fifth game. A Sam Jones ace made it 20-20 and Trabash tried another time out, but it did not work this time around.

“This just shows our volleyball maturity,’ Jones said. “I could not have asked from anything better from my team. None of us wanted to be here for a fifth game.’

While the game still hung in the balance Jones had reason to celebrate prematurely. Her kill in Game Three pushed the score to 16-12, but it also was her 1,000th kill of her career. Luckily, Hatboro-Horsham tightened up in time and the four-year starter and outside hitter is just glad to add to that total Thursday against 5th-seeded Bishop Shanahan.

“I told my setter Candyce I want to get (the 1,000th kill) over with,’ Jones said. “Having my family here to watch that means the world. We are going to have a hard practice and Thursday hopefully we play a little better than we did tonight.’

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