Pope John Paul II sweeps Lansdale Catholic in PIAA opener

PHILADELPHIA – It was an all-too-familiar foe for the Pope John Paul II girls volleyball team Tuesday afternoon as the Golden Panthers faced Lansdale Catholic in the opening round of the PIAA-AA Tournament at Philadelphia Community College’s GCP Gymnasium.

After falling to the Crusaders in straight sets in the second round of last year’s state championship and splitting their two meeting this season, Pope John Paul II won the most important matchup, sweeping Lansdale Catholic 3-0.

“It was a match we really wanted to win,’ said PJP head coach Ryan Sell. “Our team’s seen them before, and we knew what to expect. We also knew that we had a lot to prove after they ended our run last year.’

The Golden Panthers proved their point, winning by scores of 25-15, 25-23 and 25-18.

With the win, PJP will face either Bethlehem Catholic or Delone Catholic on Saturday.

Lansdale Catholic’s Kaitlyn Kushman opened the first set with an ace and led the Crusaders to a quick three-point advantage while Pope John Paul II looked a bit relaxed.

“We came out kind of flat in the beginning,’ said PJP senior Nicole Dorman. “There were a few simple mistakes that we let up early on. We just needed to get everyone on the same page.’

The Golden Panthers didn’t stay down long, as they went on a five-point run under the service of Alana Pergine and a kill from Dorman, who added three more and a block in the set. Jordan Shemonski also posted two kills and a block to help Pope John Paul II take a 25-15 victory.

Dorman opened up the second set with a kill, but Landsdale Catholic responded with a four-point run, spearheaded by two blocks from Ego Onu and Kushman’s two aces.

Dorman then responded by nailing two more kills to tie it 4-4.

After trading points back and forth, the Golden Panthers scored four straight, capped off by a kill from Grace Dawson when the defense expected her to set it to her teammate.

But the Crusaders kept answering back, as Kelly Piotrowicz had an ace to lead them on a five-point swing.

After trailing 23-20, the Golden Panthers brought it to 23-23, a situation Sell said the Golden Panthers have thrived in this season.

“I’ve always liked our chances when the score is close to the end of the match,’ said Sell. “I especially like our chances when Nicole (Dorman) is going up to serve. She makes it really tough on the opposing team.’

Dorman served up back-to-back aces to close out a second set in which she had five kills and a block to go along with two kills from Pergine and Dawson.

“It felt good to be up two sets,’ said Dorman. “We caught a burst of energy late in the second set, so we looked to keep it going into the third.’

The Golden Panthers opened up the third set with a six-point lead, including another kill where Dawson faked out the LC defense.

After letting up six points of their own to LC, the teams exchanged points back and forth.

Leading 12-11, the Golden Panthers scored seven straight points under the service of Dawson — including kills from Dorman and Shemonski.

PJP scored the final five points in the set, closing out the match with a kill from Kelly Tornetta to close out the set.

In the final set, Myah Cordrey had four kills while Tornetta added three of her own.

“I’m proud of the way we didn’t give up and gave it our best effort,’ said Lansdale Catholic head coach Joann Pisch. “We played our hearts out against a very good team. Pope John Paul is a really good team, and we still hung with them today.’

According to Sell, the Golden Panthers will need to make improvements in order to win in the next round.

“To be honest, we didn’t play our best today,’ said Sell. “We made too many mental mistakes and let them hang around too long. There are a few things we need to fix, but I’m still happy about the way we played today.’

According to Pergine, the Golden Panthers have all the potential to go far in the state tournament.

“It’s only going to get harder from this point on,’ said Pergine. “But I’m confident in our team. We have the skill level to compete with anyone, we just have to come out and execute from start to finish.’

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