Matta keeps Sacred Heart focused on advancing

The message was simple. It will not be repeated.

“You don’t wanna know,’ said Gatta when asked what she told the team. “Let’s put it that way.’

Whatever it was, it worked. Already up a game, the Lions only dropped seven points from that moment on, cruising to a 25-13, 25-15, 25-4 victory over MaST Charter Tuesday at Wissahickon High School in the first round of the PIAA Class A tournament.

Sacred Heart (15-8) advances to the quarterfinals to face defending state champion Marian Catholic Saturday. The time and site of the match will be determined later this week. It might not be there without Tuesday’s mid-match chitchat.

The Lions needed it.

“It was a little bit of a wake up call,’ senior co-captain Ciara Burke said.

“She just had to pull us together,’ fellow captain Kellilynn Murray added.

After a fairly dominating first game, where it led 5-0, fell down 13-12, and finished on a 12-1 run, Sacred Heart was having difficulty in the second game. Its focus was lacking, it wasn’t serving well, it was making unforced errors.

MaST Charter broke a 5-5 tie by winning seven of the next nine points. That’s when Gatta changed the course of the match, and perhaps her team’s season. Libero Lauren Kilroy was serving for the run, which turned the five-point deficit into a 16-12 lead.

“They stepped up,’ Gatta said. “They knew they were coming in a little flat. I never underestimated them. They always get the job done, no matter how long it takes.’

It didn’t take very long for Sacred Heart to put the match away. It led 20-13 later in Game 2 and coasted to victory there, then won the first nine — and last 11 — points of Game 3. The celebration after the final point was subdued.

The Lions knew they were going to win. They knew they belonged in the quarterfinals. All it took was a reminder.

“Play together and play up to the level that we should be playing at,’ Murray said.

Kerri Corcoran was huge all match for Sacred Heart, totaling a team-high 12 kills. Murray added eight. Kilroy and Ally Schell combined for 29 digs, while Jessica McTaggart had 31 assists. The Lions will need all that, and more, if they want to beat Marian Catholic.

They’ve reached the quarterfinals two out of the past three years. They’ve never gotten past this point. They want 2014 to be the year.

“The next game,’ Murray said, “we’re hoping to come out and show everyone we can go further than that.’

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