Pope John Paul II tops Villa Maria for third straight district title

Plymouth Meeting – Winning the District 1-AA title in back-to back seasons speaks a lot about a team.

But winning it three years in a row, against the same time each year—that is an absolute statement.

No. 1 seed Pope John Paul II made its statement Thursday night as the Golden Panthers defeated Villa Maria in straight sets at Plymouth-Whitemarsh to once again claim the district title.

“It’s an amazing feeling to win it for the third year in a row,’ said senior Nicole Dorman. “This is what we’ve strived for since the end of the summer. I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates.’

The Golden Panthers gave Dorman plenty to be proud of as they won all three sets with scores of 26-24, 25-20 and 25-19.

“We’ve had a lot of ups and down all throughout this season,’ said Pope John Paul II head coach Ryan Sell. “But our team really came together tonight. We knew what was at stake, and we didn’t want to let anything get in the way.’

According to P-W head coach Joe Boland, this is a loss that will stick with him for a while.

“Pope John Paul (II) was our only loss this season,’ he said. “This was a match that we really wanted to win. But we just didn’t have an answer for them. They’re a really talented team with a lot of good players all around.’

The Golden Panthers showed their talent early, jumping out to a quick 7-1 lead under the service of Dorman. After trading points back and forth, sophomore Alana Pergine had back-to-back kills to give PJP its momentum back along with a 20-17 lead.

Tied at 24-24, Dorman nailed two aces in a row to give the Golden Panthers the victory.

“When we get into a situation where we’re tied late in a set, I have a lot of confidence in the girls,’ said Sell. “We’ve been in that situation a lot of times this year, and it’s something our team has really strived and done well in.’

Villa Maria took an early 5-1 lead to open the second set, but the Golden Panthers battled back, going on a 9-2 run spearheaded by two kills apiece from Dorman and Pergine.

“We knew we couldn’t let them get anything going offensively,’ said Pergine. “They’re a tough team, and they made it tough for us at the net. We needed to take advantage of anything they gave us.’

Leading 18-14, the Golden Panthers went on a five-point run under the service of Megan Clerico and went on to close out the set.

All that was left for the Golden Panthers was to win their third set and their third championship in a row.

With Grace Dawson serving, PJP took an early 5-0 lead in the final set. After trading points back and forth with Villa Maria, Pergine and Dawson began to connect.

Pergine posted four kills, all from Dawson who had six assists as well as three blocks in the set. Dorman also had three kills.

Jordan Shemonski ended the match with a block to give the Golden Panthers the 25-19 victory and earn them another trip to states.

“We played our game tonight, and I couldn’t be more proud of my team,’ said senior Alexa Difilippo. “We stayed aggressive and never let up no matter what happened. I’m just so excited to see how far we can go.’

According to Dorman, for her and the Golden Panthers, the best is still yet to come.

“Our team has a ton of confidence going into states,’ said Dorman. “We played really well all season, but I think we’re playing our best right now. We’re making all the plays and doing everything we need to in order to win games.’

With both the Pioneer Athletic Conference title and the District 1-AA title under their belts, the Golden Panthers will look to make a lot of noise in the state playoffs.

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