O’Hara ready for second shot at Shanahan

The last two seasons, there’s been a Ches-Mont team awaiting Cardinal O’Hara in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA volleyball tournament.

This year’s Chester County representative has the added caveat of forcing O’Hara into what coach Bill Collins called “probably our worst match all year.’

Those facts, though, don’t make the District 12 champion Lions any less excited for Tuesday’s date with Bishop Shanahan, the runner-up from District One, in the first round of the PIAA Tournament.

The teams will meet at Community College of Philadelphia at 5 p.m.

Collins’ youthful squad is ready for a second shot at the Eagles, who thrashed them 3-0 in early October.

“They’re a young team, and that’s kind of good because they don’t fear too many teams,’ Collins said Monday. “They feel good, and they’re looking forward to it.’

That regular-season defeat isn’t necessarily representative of the O’Hara team that will take the court Tuesday. The Lions were in the process of getting healthy then, with setter Meghan MacWilliams in her first game back and Gabby Napoleon playing her second game following two-week layoffs. Coupled with some formational tinkering that didn’t succeed as Collins had planned, it was an easy day for Shanahan.

A month later, the Lions have been at full strength for the last three weeks or so, including extended practice time since their Catholic League semifinal loss to Lansdale Catholic that Collins has called extremely productive in making up for lost continuity.

“It’s been tough, but we’ve had a full complement of players for about the last three weeks,’ Collins said. “You can’t use that as an excuse, and we’ve never tried to use it as one. We’ve embraced a next-man-up philosophy.’

Collins sees Shanahan as a major departure from the style O’Hara is accustomed to seeing in the Catholic League. The Eagles are big and fast, and they’ll look to push the attacking tempo more than most squads the Lions have encountered this season. But with Collins’ search for regular-season challenges, the teams have played regularly over the last few years, meaning there aren’t many mysteries in what each team will try to do.

In other PIAA matches:

1-3 Garnet Valley vs. 11-1 Parkland

The Jaguars’ first trip to the state tournament will be a daunting one, hoofing it up to Nazareth High School to meet the District 11 champs at 7 p.m.

While the Jags are short on PIAA Tournament experience, they’ve got plenty of court time under their belts as a unit. The senior-laden group doesn’t want the program’s first states trip since 1994 to be a short one, making them hungry and anything but satisfied with their progress this season.

“They’re ready for it,’ coach Mark Clark said. “It’s something that they’ve looked forward to. It was one of their big goals at the beginning of the season. And you can tell by the way they played Saturday that they’re ready. They just want to win.’

Saturday’s affair, a third-place game just for seeding against top-seeded Pennridge, turned into a five-set thriller, with Garnet Valley surmounting an 0-2 deficit. That provides Garnet Valley with an emotional boost heading into the meeting with Parkland, one of the top teams in the state this season.

Class A

1-1 Sacred Heart vs. 12-1 MaST Charter

The District One pendulum swung again this season, and it was by the slightest of margins that Sacred Heart bested Christopher Dock in five sets in the Class A final last week, booking them a place in the PIAA opener at Wissahickon High School at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Sacred Heart missed out on a states berth last season, losing to Dock in the final after having claimed the title in 2012 over Dock. That rivalry has bred a balance of hunger and experience that the Lions hope will see them through this tournament.

The final against Dock showed a little of both qualities. Sacred Heart dominated the first game, 25-12, then won a squeaker in the second, 26-24, before being blown out in the third, 25-11, to kickstart Dock’s comeback attempt. The fact that Sacred Heart had the tenacity to battle back and win the final set, 15-9, indicates their PIAA credentials.

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