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Perkiomen Valley sweeps Conestoga

GRATERFORD >> No games in recent days?

No problem.

Perkiomen Valley ended an extended layoff from game play Thursday by hosting Conestoga in the second round of the District 1 Class 4A playoffs. It had been off since Oct. 16, when PV was topped 3-2 by Pope John Paul II in the semifinal round of the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Final Four playoffs.

There was no lethargy on the Vikings’ part, however. Beneficiaries of a first-round bye by virtue of their fifth seeding in the 24-team field, they dominated the Pioneers in a 3-0 victory.

“We hadn’t played in 12 days,” PV head coach Drew Scheeler said. “I was happy with the way we came out.”

It was almost a precursor of things to come when the Vikes’ first serve hit the floor on Conestoga’s side without any player able to make a setup. They used a seven-point run to score a 25-19 victory, then followed with a pair of 25-16 sets to close out the night.

The win guarantees PV (22-4) at least two more games in districts. It will face West Chester Rustin (3-1 winner over Downingtown East) in Monday’s quarterfinal round, with the losing team dropping into a playback round establishing the district’s five state-level qualifiers.

“We knew if we went in and played together, we could win,” Helena Clauhs, one of the team’s overall statistical leaders, said. “The rest of the season will be exciting. We’re looking to move forward.”

Its seven-point string in the first set pulled PV out of a 4-4 deadlock with the Pioneers (15-6), the district’s 12th seed and 3-1 winners over Upper Dublin in the opening round. It was almost equalled by a six-point run the Vikes went on to start the second set … one where they had two five-point strings to leave Conestoga in a sizeable hole.

The Pioneers’ best effort came in the third set, where they took a 4-1 lead at the start. But Perk Valley responded with a six-point run that reversed that deficit into a 7-4 lead; and while the visitors got within one point of PV through the next eight games, they fell off the Vikings’ pace down the stretch.

“We were a little off,” Conestoga head coach Diana Felker said. “It wasn’t the match I hoped for, the way we played.”

The Pioneers tried to ride the on-court lead of the players who were their statistical stars this fall: Abby Francis, who had 200 kills and approximately 45 blocks; Gabi Castro, who got her 1,000th dig in Tuesday’s game with Upper Dublin; and Kat Chodaczek, who was a handful of assists short of the 500 mark.

“Francis and Larkin … they both needed to be offensively solid for us, and they were,” Felker said.

On the PV side, Clauhs came away with eight kills, six digs and three blocks. Jess Oltman added another eight kills and three blocks, Ellie Min had five kills and 27 assists and Ava Guarnaccia chipped in with another nine digs.

“They are a pretty good team,” Clauhs said. “They played a lot of scrappy defense.”

“Our tendency this season has been after we take a lead, we let them (opponents) back,” Scheeler added. “But we fought back, put pressure on them and controlled the momentum.”

One noticeable aspect of PV’s play in the third set was its departure from the spikes it directed at Conestoga prior to that. It picked up a number of points by taking a softer approach: Tapping the ball over the net.

“Our girls like to hit,” Scheeler noted, “but it’s important to keep the other team on its toes. We want to throw a changeup a bit.”

Clauhs cited the development of the team’s underclassmen as a positive aspect of its development this season.

“A lot of our younger players are learning to call their spots,” she said. “That makes the game more of a team sport.”

NOTES >> Felker noted Larkin gave Conestoga a boost since her return from being out for a 2-3 week period earlier in the season. “She went to the outside since she came back,” she said. “She had over 160 kills for the year. I think she could have reached 200.”

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