Germantown Academy falls to Notre Dame in PAISAA final

BRYN MAWR — Falling twice to Notre Dame during the regular season meant Germantown Academy failed to claim the regular season title in the Pennsylvania Inter-Academic League.

However, playing through the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association volleyball tournament offered the Patriots a second opportunity to upset their league foe. That will for a repeat culminated in the championship game at Baldwin School on Thursday.

Yet, much like the first two, the third played out much the same with a Notre Dame victory (15-25, 9-25, 20-25).

“The consistency is not there, that’s probably the one thing that’s hurt us,’ GA coach Dan Sullivan said. “I wasn’t sure which team would show up tonight, sometimes it’s like rolling the dice.’

Without a single senior on the roster, the Patriots have come a long way in a short time. Filling in for injured players as well as filling positions vacated by last year’s starters, the Patriots have used their athleticism and a strong work ethic to make it to their first PAISAA championship since joining the fall volleyball league.

“This year we got to this point without seniors and with freshman playing on the court,’ said libero Erin Lindahl.

Coming out with tremendous energy, a strength in which the Fighting Irish have prided themselves all season long (and in year’s past), the Patriots were shocked to be down 2-0 in little more than an hour’s time, having failed to put together 25 total points between the two.

“We sustained (that energy) throughout the entire match and that’s what drives us,’ said Notre Dame head coach Mike Sheridan. “We got our energy up and we never got it down, and the girls know we need to do that to be successful.’

“For every single point, no matter if we won or if we lost, we had the same energy,’ said Notre Dame outside hitter Shannon Quigley. “We really wanted it and we knew we had to fight for it.’

Patriots’ outside hitter and captain Grace Polisano, very much the heart and soul of the GA team on the court, went down with an injury in the second set — rolling her ankle on a ball hit into the net. She sustained a sprain and a bruised big toe, but would return to the game.

“It put some of our teammates down,’ said outside-hitter Carly Pruitt said. “When you get out on the court, she’s there to pump you up.’

“It was such a heartbreaker, because she just got back from a broken finger,’ Lindahl said. “We were excited to have her, but it was such a big shock to us when it happened.’

While the Irish seemed to have the match in hand heading into the third set, the Patriots’ squad played the final match of their season they should have from the start — with nothing to lose. And with Polisano back in the lineup, they came out smiling.

“We came out here and we knew we had nothing to lose,’ Pruitt said. “No seniors, championship game, underdogs, we really had nothing to lose … next year it’s our year.’

Through strong serving, clean play and a dedicated defensive effort, the Irish thwarted an early Patriots run and proved to be too much down the stretch. GA simply couldn’t get a clean play at the net and fell victim to the same mistakes that plagued them in the first two sets.

Notre Dame kept a barrier between their Inter-Ac foes thanks to an aggressive service game that kept GA out of their system and instead throwing up sets to the outside that were easy defensible by the Notre Dame blockers.

“I told them, ‘ I don’t want you tipping, I don’t want you pushing, I want you swinging away and I want you back on that service line serving aggressively,” Sheridan said.

While the Irish will graduate five seniors — the core of the team — like the Patriots, Notre Dame is made up of adept underclassmen who aim to make it right back to the championship game. Even at the conclusion of the season, each side was fired up for the next rematch.

“Next year, knowing that we got this far, we’re going to get it next year,’ Lindahl said.

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