Ketter, underdog Academy Park put up a fight

SHARON HILL >> John Basile had no delusions going into the District One Class AAA volleyball tournament. The veteran Academy Park coach knew his team was an underdog Tuesday night, even though the No. 16 Knights were seeded higher seed than their opponent, No. 17 West Chester Henderson.

The Warriors were the only team to beat top-seeded Bishop Shanahan during the regular season so Basile knew it would be an uphill battle, and it was, as Henderson moved to the second round with a 3-0 victory over the Knights.

Yet as disappointing as the loss was, Basile beamed with pride afterward.

Although overmatched, the Knights (17-4) did not go meekly, making Henderson (15-8) earn its 25-12, 25-11, 25-13 triumph and a rematch with Shanahan in Thursday’s second round.

“I’m so pleased with these girls, especially the seniors,” Basile said. “What they accomplished in their four years is just amazing, four straight Del Val titles and this, a home game in the playoffs. There are a lot of teams out there that would like to have the season we had.”

Not only did AP win 17 games, the Knights also qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2003, something senior outside hitter Trea-sure Ketter did not think was possible when the season began. Yet after a 4-3 start, the Knights ripped off 13 straight wins to close out the regular season and win the Del Val League title for the fourth consecutive year and the seventh time in school history.

“Making the playoffs means so much,” Ketter said. “It’s the first time we’ve done it in my four years here. I’m so proud of this team, I’m speechless.”

The 6-3 Ketter paced the Knights with seven kills and three blocks. She has received recruiting interest from Cheyney, Delaware State, Lincoln, Penn State-Brandywine and Penn State Abington. Setter Alasia Petty added 12 assists and Taylor Eiserman pitched in with three kills.

Yet that wasn’t enough to get the Knights to the second round. Henderson went on a 15-point run in the first set. The Warriors scored the first seven points of the second set and went on a 10-0 run in the third set to put the match away.

“That’s an excellent team,” Basile said of Henderson. “This was good for us. The only way to get better is to play against teams like this.”

Henderson’s attack, led by seniors Haley Butler, Jenna Figlioli and Torie Adler, and junior Allie DeAbreu, was too much for the Knights. Butler pounded 19 kills, many of the cross-court variety. Figlioli and Adler chipped in with seven kills each, while DeAbreu contributed six kills and 11 digs.

Setter Sarah Tunnell put the attack in motion with 34 assists. She also had eight aces.

“It was a nice night,” Henderson coach Greta Neff said. “The girls executed the game plan. They really played together as a team.”

The Knights, though, did not make it easy. Academy Park scored 10 of the last 19 points in the first set, stayed even after the Warriors jumped out to a 9-1 lead in the second set and put together a couple of runs in the third set to make Henderson wait before it could celebrate its victory.

Neff was not surprised.

“They played hard,” Neff said of Academy Park. “Their girls did some nice things and stayed in the match the whole way. They fought, which is what we expected.”

Ketter would not have it any other way.

“We weren’t going to let them walk over us,” Ketter said. “It didn’t matter how much we lost by, we weren’t going to go down without a fight.”

In other first-round action:

Penncrest 3, Central Bucks South 0 >> The sixth-seeded Lions bounced back from a loss to Ridley in the Central League semifinals with a strong effort at Kaufman Gymnasium.

After winning the first set, 27-25, Penncrest (17-4) cruised to a pair of 25-11 victories.

“They really wanted it and really came together as a team,” Penncrest coach Jen Carney said. “They wanted the opportunity to go to the second round of districts.”

The Lions (17-4) advance to take on No. 22 Abington at home Thursday night. The Ghosts eliminated 11th-seeded Ridley, 3-2.

Diana Balta paced the Penncrest attack with 10 kills and nine assists. Nikki Gargiule had 18 assists and five kills. Gianna Gargiule chipped in with 11 digs. Taylor Sharkey pounded six kills and Emily Hopkins added five kills.

Downingtown West 3, Garnet Valley 0 >> The Jaguars’ season came to a close in a tough 25-18, 25-19, 25-18 loss to the seventh-seeded Whippets.

Downingtown West hosts the winner of the Haverford-Upper Dublin game in Thursday’s second round.

Meagan Scott paced Garnet Valley (9-10) with 11 digs. Gabby Davis had 16 assists, while Cassidy Gallagher led the attack with five kills.

Abington 3, Ridley 2 >> The No. 22 Ghosts knocked off the 11th-seeded Green Raiders to pull off the biggest upset of the first round.

The seniors led the way for Ridley. Melanie Malseed smacked 22 kills. Amy Staiber collected 10 kills and 13 digs. Molly Murtha contributed 10 kills and four blocks. Carlee Herrin had 24 assists and Lindsay Gladin dished out 17 assists.

Abington’s reward is another game on the road. The Ghosts visit sixth-seeded Penncrest Thursday night.

Upper Merion 3, Sun Valley 0 >> No details were reported.

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