Upper Merion girls avoid upset against Garnet Valley

UPPER MERION >> Saturdays can be weird days as far as volleyball goes. They don’t have the same rhythm that they do during the week. The games often start around when its participants are usually eating lunch.

And in the case of Upper Merion’s match against Garnet Valley this Saturday, an SAT test could get in the way. The Vikes won, three sets to one, but not without a bit of a rocky start.

“We were missing one of our starting hitters,” Viking coach Tony Funsten said, because of the test. “We had to put Emma (Andraka) in the middle.”

“We had kids in places they’ve never been before, and doing things they’ve never done,” he went on. “but we found our balance in the second match.”

Upper Merion dropped the first set 25-18, plagued by uncharastically discordant play. The girls didn’t know exactly where to be, struggled at times with communication, and let a fiesty Garnet Valley team grind their way to an early lead. No Jaguar run lasted longer than four points, but it was enough to put the Vikings’ backs against the wall.

“It wasn’t automatic,” Funsten said. “Things weren’t automatic for them, so we had to make it that way.”

Carlye Odorisio did quite a bit of that for the Vikes, as her standout play in the second set turned the match around for Upper Merion.

She wasn’t afraid to attack the net, but also was more than happy to back off and set another teammate up, keeping Garnet Valley’s defense on their heels whenever the ball went in her direction. Statistically, her work showed: she led the team with 32 assists.

“We got our balance in the second match, and we’ve got to thank Carlye for that,” Funsten said. “For a while she just dominated the match, and it really messed up (the Jaguars’) defense.”

“Every time the ball came over to her, (Garnet Valley) would cheat in,” he said. “Then she’d set it, and you’d have nobody to block.”

“It’s subtle, what she did,” he said. “Even when she wasn’t scoring, she was helping everyone else score.”

Late in the second set was when Upper Merion really took off, and outside of a brief 11-11 tie in the third set, the match wasn’t in a whole lot of doubt. The Vikes took the final three sets by scores of 25-13, 25-18, and 25-18.

Andraka took to her new-ish position relatively well, finishing with nine kills and registering three blocks. Carolyn Helenski led the team in kills with 12, and Micaela Ghanayem played stellar defense out of the libero position, tallying 15 digs. Up next on the schedule for the Vikes is a week that features a Wednesday match at Plymouth Whitemarsh, and a Friday tilt at home against Norristown.

Though there were a few hiccups early, Funsten isn’t particularly concerned (given that they were in a lineup scenario that they don’t plan to be in from this point forward), but is still happy his team saw a bit of adversity early.

“We’re not powerful enough to (lapse in concentration),” he said. “Last year, when we had a five or six-point lead, the other team wasn’t coming back. We would just overpower them.”

“That’s not the case this year,” he went on. “We’re a little scrappier, a little smaller, and we really need to make sure that we don’t give (the other team) anything that they don’t earn.”

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