ROYERSFORD >> Pope John Paul II and Boyerstown are two schools at very different stages in their volleyball programs.
The third-seeded Golden Panthers are looking for their third straight Pioneer Athletic Conference championship, while the second-seeded Bears are only in their second year of existence.
The difference in experience was on full display Tuesday night in the PAC Final Four at Spring-Ford High School. Pope John Paul won in three sets, 25-14, 25-13, 25-16, to punch their ticket to Thursday’s championship game.
“You could tell they were maybe a little bit nervous,” PJP coach Ryan Sell said. “Not saying that our kids weren’t, but maybe we can hide it a little bit better because we’ve played in some District 1 championship games, last year’s PAC championship game. We just tried to keep some pressure on kids here and there and we felt like they felt the pressure.”
“Anytime you have experiences in your life, you grow from them,” Boyertown coach Mike Ludwig said. “Obviously them being here and a lot of those kids having experiences — a couple of them were starters last year for that team that won the PAC — I think it definitely helps them be more prepared. Our girls were a little uncertain about how to prepare and what to do and how things were going to go. Take nothing away from the fact they flat out out-played us today.”
The Golden Panthers were dominant throughout the entire contest. The only times they trailed were 1-0 in Game 1 and 1-0 and 2-0 in Game 3.
“We served very well,” Sell said. “The first time we played them (3-1 Boyertown win), they actually put a bunch of pressure on us from the service line. I felt like we received serve fairly well. Our outsides had pretty good games. We were able to pass the ball fairly well. We were able to run the middle a good bit.
“Our offense is a little better now than when we first played them.”
After falling behind 1-0 in the first game, PJP scored three straight points and never looked back. The lead expanded to 9-2 and 16-7 before they cruised to a 25-14 victory.
The second game was more of the same. The Golden Panthers rattled off 10 straight points to take a commanding 15-3 lead. The Bears scored five straight points to cut a 20-5 deficit to 20-10, but that’s as close as they’d get before falling, 25-13.
The third game was the most competitive. Boyertown scored the first two points before PJP won five in a row. Later in the game, the Bears scored five straight to bring the teams to a 13-13 tie. After a timeout, PJP sandwiched two four-point runs around one Boyertown point to build a 21-14 lead, before closing it out, 25-16.
“We said to keep the energy up,” PJP sophomore Hanna Tulli said of the message before pulling away in the third game, “because they’re a good team. I don’t know what happened tonight, but they kind of slacked off and we had more energy.”
The Golden Panthers were very accurate with their shooting. Sarah Ward led the team with 13 kills, Madeline Muchahey had 10 and Tulli seven.
“This year we’ve been improving every single time,” Sell said. “We only made seven hitting errors. We hit .245 which is totally awesome. In the last three or four matches we’ve been fairly accurate, so I’m pleased with that.”
Chelsea Harvey led PJP with 32 assists and Simone Sparano had 17 digs. Mikaela Monroe had three aces.
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