Upper Dublin >> Bishop Shanahan, which has not lost a set in the 2019 PIAA postseason, swept Pennsbury, 3-0, Saturday in the PIAA 4A state quarterfinals at Upper Dublin High School.
The Eagles (22-0), who won four 3-0 decisions en route to the District 1 4A title and swept Cumberland Valley in the first round of states last Tuesday, came out smoking Saturday, jumping out to an 18-4 lead in the first set.
While the power hitting and potent jump serves of senior outside hitter Cara Shultz (13 kills, six aces) helped to fire up Shanahan’s fast start, there was more behind the Eagles’ early excellence.
“We knew that Pennsbury was going to focus on Cara, try to stop Cara,” said Bishop Shanahan head coach Greg Ashman. “The last time we played them [a 3-0 win in the District 1 4A semifinals Oct. 29], our middles and our right side had really good matches. So we wanted to set the tone early with them getting the ball so it would free up Cara, take the pressure off Cara, and it did, because it moved their block over, and Cara was able to swing how she needs to swing.”
Shanahan middle blockers Maddie Rudolph and Bridgette Kelly combined for nine kills Saturday, and sophomore outside hitter Coco Shultz delivered nine kills of her own.
“I think Coco played really, really well today,” said Ashman. “She’s only a sophomore and it’s the first time she’s been in this big stage like this. Once she calmed down a little bit [early], she played really, really well.”
After the Eagles flew to a 24-9 lead in the first set, Shanahan had a bit of trouble putting the game away, as Pennsbury won seven conseuctive points before the District 1 4A champions scored the winning point for a 25-16 victory.
In the second set, the Falcons (21-4) kept up the pressure, taking a 6-3 lead early then tieing the score at 14-14 on a well-placed hit by standout senior outside hitter Elley Torres.
“We know that teams are always going to throw their best things at us,” said Ashman. “We bring the best out of teams, which is a compliment to our program. We really appreciate when teams do that – they don’t roll over for us, and that’s great, it makes our kids work harder.
“It was the same thing when we played last Tuesday night against Cumberland Valley – they came out in the third set, and really came out strong, they were leading by eight points. But we know that no matter where we are in our game, that we have confidence that we can come back from any deficit – that our kids just don’t get rattled to the point where they’re going to fail – they know that, and they’re going to work hard to push through it.”
With the score 14-14, Shanahan won the next three points, wrapped around a Cara Shultz kill, and led the rest of the way, winning 25-18.
Cara Shultz said, “Our serve-receive got down a little bit [early in Game 2], but we worked on getting it back up. … We were fighting for everything, going for stray balls, hitting the floor, doing everything we can to keep the ball up. Pennsbury has some very talented outside hitters [particularly Torres and junior Izzy Marinelli].”
Shanahan’s defense proved stalwart Saturday, led by Cara Shultz (20 digs), senior defensive specialist Grace Casagrande (13 digs), Coco Shultz (nine digs), junior outside hitter Brooke Burns (nine digs) and senior setter Mia Caporellie (eight digs).
Caporellie, who is considered one of the Eagles’ best servers, also dished out 35 assists and tallied three kills. Speaking of serving, Burns and Coco Shultz each recorded a pair of aces.
“We worked on our serving this week, because we knew that it was going to be key,” said Ashman. “We knew that if we could break them in serve-receive, that we’d get a lot of easy balls back, which means that we could take good swings.”
With the victory, the Eagles advance to the PIAA state semifinal, where they will face District 11 champion Parkland Tuesday.
Cara Shultz said, “We played Parkland in a couple of pre-season tournaments and we played pretty well. But I know they’re definitely going to be very different than the team we played back in September.”
Should the Eagles defeat Parkland, they will make a return trip to the PIAA 4A state championship final Nov. 16 at Cumberland Valley High School. Last year, the Eagles lost in the PIAA 4A state final to North Allegheny, 3-0, for the second consecutive year.
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