Downingtown >> Undefeated Bishop Shanahan used a variety of shots to carve out a 3-0 win against Pennsbury Tuesday in the PIAA District 1 4A girls’ volleyball semifinal.
To the visual delight of the home fans in the packed Shanahan gym, the top-seeded Eagles (20-0) had their power game going, particularly outside hitters Cara Shultz (13 kills) and Coco Shultz (11 kills).
But according to Shanahan head coach Greg Ashman, what makes the Eagles fly high is their varied attack, as set up by senior setter Mia Caporellie.
“Mia moved the ball around really well tonight,” said Ashman. “She didn’t get anyone stuck in a routine where [Pennsbury] knew where the ball was going; she kept mixing it up all the time, and that’s what makes us dangerous – we can hit from every angle on the court. When Mia’s on top of her game, she moves the ball around and gets the right hitters the ball at all times.”
“Mia is very athletic and can put the ball where it needs to be,” said Coco Shultz.
Caporellie, who dished out 32 assists Tuesday, said, “I just try to change up the flow, set some to the outside and some to the right side. Our hitters do a great job, and our passers do a great job, they make me look good.”
With the victory, the Eagles advance to the District 1 4A championship final against No. 2 seed Unionville in an All-Ches-Mont League final, to be held Thursday at West Chester East High School. Bishop Shanahan, which defeated Unionville 3-1 Oct. 8, has won the District 1 4A title each of the past three years, and captured the District 1 3A championship in 2015, when there was no 4A classification.
Against No. 4 seed Pennsbury Tuesday, the Eagles soared to an 11-4 lead in the first set, winning 25-14, then grabbed an 8-2 lead in Game 2, getting some well-placed hits from middle blocker Bridgette Kelly.
Ashman said, “Our middles [Kelly and Maddie Rudolph] were very strong tonight. They put up some good blocks. They directed the ball exactly as we wanted, we want to filter that ball right to our libero; and they were strong offensively; they got their kills [four kills each] when we really needed them. In [our] philosophy, a blocker is not there to get block kills; they’re there to slow the [opposing] offense down and filter the ball to our defenders, and [Kelly and Rudolph] did a very good job of that.”
Pennsbury proved persistent, however, and soon cut the Eagles’ lead to 11-7 with some strong play from their two standout outside hitters, senior Elley Torres and junior Izzy Marinelei. Ashman was impressed with the Pennsbury pair as well as the visitors’ scrappiness – the Falcons had come back to defeat Boyertown 3-2 in the District 1 quarterfinal Saturday.
Ashman said, “Pennsbury’s two outside hitters are phenomenal, and they came back [against Boyertown] 2 or 3 times from being down 2-0 and I kept telling our girls tonight, ‘It’s not over, it’s not over, it’s never over.’”
Caporellie said, “We knew that Pennsbury had a lot of endurance, had gone to five sets in their last game, so we were ready for a fight out here tonight.”
Bishop Shanahan battled back and lengthened its lead in Game 2 with some kills from the two Shultzes and prevailed for a 25-15 victory.
Coco Shultz said, “Pennsbury was very scrappy; and they have a couple of good outside hitters who I knew were going to swing all night. We did a good job of staying on them and playing good defense, and making sure that we picked up everything we could.”
Shanahan neutralized Pennsbury’s power, particularly with the aid of Cara Shultz (11 digs), Coco Shultz (six digs), Caporellie (eight digs) and outside hitter Brooke Burns (15 digs as well as four kills).
Caporellie said, “Pennsbury is a very good team, and I think this was one of our best games of the season. We stayed aggressive the whole match and didn’t let up at all. We try to run our middles – it’s really hard for teams to defend middle hitters, so we try to get our middle hitters established early and run them because we have two really good middles.”
Coco Shultz said, “As soon as we got the ball, our plan was to put it away so that they couldn’t come back, because they had a hard attack – we figured we had to come back at them with a harder attack.”
In the third set, Shanahan gradually widened its lead to 19-10, until a spirited Pennsbury comeback cut the Eagles’ lead to 21-17. Though the Falcons battled the hosts the rest of the way, Shanahan prevailed for a 25-20 victory in the third set and earned its third 3-0 win in the 2019 District 1 4A tournament. The Eagles defeated 16th seed Strath Haven 3-0 in their district opener last Thursday, then beat No. 8 seed West Chester Rustin 3-0 Saturday. According to Ashman, outside of tournaments, the Eagles have lost only three sets this fall.
“Tonight was the toughest match we’ve played so far in the playoffs, which is as it should be – Pennsbury earned its fourth seed,” said Ashman, whose Eagles now go against No. 2 seed Unionville in the District 1 4A championship finals.
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