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Perkiomen Valley knocks unbeaten Boyertown for first place tie atop PAC

BOYERTOWN >> The Pioneer Athletic Conference won’t have a girls volleyball postseason in 2020 like in typical years.

Instead, the PAC’s top two teams — Boyertown and Perkiomen Valley — played what will likely be the closest thing to a league championship game Wednesday at Boyertown.

In the two teams’ second meeting this fall Perkiomen Valley avenged its season-opening loss to the Bears with an exciting 3-1 win in sets of 25-23, 17-25, 25-20 and 25-22 to tie Boyertown atop the PAC standings.

Adding to the atmosphere were two rows full of cardboard cutouts and about 75 living spectators as both teams played in front of a crowd for the first time this fall.

“This was one of their huge goals,” said PV second-year head coach Jessica Highley. “This is what they wanted to do. … This was something that we had to prove, that we could beat Boyertown because they’re well-coached, well played. They came out as underdogs at the start of their program and they have soared. This was a huge win for my kids.”

 

Six PAC schools opted in at the start of the season in late September and due to an altered schedule caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the PAC decided on a round-robin schedule to decide its league champion. Every team plays the other five schools twice.

Boyertown (6-1) entered Wednesday unbeaten — a 3-2 win Sept. 28 over PV its closest game to date — and hoping to put itself in prime position for a sole claim of the league title a season after finishing as the PAC runner-up.

The Vikings (6-1), who missed out on the PAC Final Four last season, had other plans, hoping to give themselves a chance at their first league title since sharing the PAC championship with PJP in 2015.

Led by seniors Izzy Clauhs (13 kills, two blocks), Ashley Bolan (four aces, six digs) and Abby Souder (23 digs, two assists), junior Sam Corey (seven kills, five blocks) and sophomore Naomi Clauhs (two aces, four kills, 16 assists, 12 digs), Perk Valley tied things up amid the top of the league standings with three PAC contests to play.

“We were so excited,” Izzy Clauhs said. “These are big rivals of ours. It’s always fun playing with them. Through corona, we’ve been looking at volleyball for an outlet just to get away from it.”

“Our last game against them really frustrated us, so that felt really good,” Naomi Clauhs added.

Boyertown’s Emma Ludwig, right, hits the ball over the net as Perkiomen Valley’s Ella Beckman prepares to leap and block. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

Up until last week schools were not permitted to allow spectators due to state restrictions on the number of people allowed at indoor gatherings.

Beginning last week, the state loosened restrictions, allowing for venues with a max capacity of 2,000 people or under to be filled 20 percent and venues with a max capacity of 2,001 to 10,000 people to be filled 15 percent, giving a chance for fans to attend volleyball games.

Wednesday’s victory was extra special for the Clauhs sisters as it was the first time their father Bill and younger siter Ester were able to them play in person this season.

“They’ve been tuning in online, but it’s really hard with WiFi and connections to really get them feel the energy of the game too,” Izzy Clauhs said. “It’s hard to go home and describe what the energy was like, but having them right beside us tonight they definitely felt that.”

“People in the stands, a little energy in the gym, it’s kind of fun, right?” added Boyertown coach Mike Ludwig. “It’s exciting.”

 

Up two sets to one, PV took a 17-10 lead in the fourth set as it attempted to close out the victory in convincing fashion. Helped by a run of points from senior Emma Ludwig, the Bears responded with 12 of the game’s next 14 points to go ahead 22-19 as they tried to force a fourth set.

Perk Valley found a way to survive the run, responding with six straight points to take the set and the match.

 

The Bears have relied on Ludwig and junior Adrianna Derstine, two key returners from last year’s PAC runner-up squad, this season, while Ludwig noted the team’s overall defense has been a strength.

“I think it was one of those things where we got a couple nice sets and I think Emma got on a roll where she had five or six straight kills,” Ludwig said. “They did the same thing to us. They got some nice sets and their outside got some nice swings.

“I just think momentum in volleyball is something that comes and goes quickly. We had a couple tough serves and pressure, every kid out here was feeling it because they know what this meant. It was a good match. It was fun for the kids.”

Perkiomen Valley’s Abby Souder bumps a ball Wednesday against Boyertown. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

PV was missing some of the resolve it showed in Wednesday night’s win last season, which was part of the reason the Vikings fell short against some of the PAC’s top teams in 2019.

With a year of experience under their belts, the Vikings used past moments to bear down and grit out a marquee win.

“We definitely leaned on each other,” Izzy Clauhs said. “One person would have a rough pass, but then the setter could make up for it and the hitters just had to work harder to find that spot. We definitely leaned on each other. The hustle was there. It was definitely scrappy at the end because the ref wasn’t making calls that we thought he’d be making, but we just dug deep.”

“Last year, they would have mentally crumbled,” Highley added. “Their skill would have stayed, but they would have mentally crumbled. This year, we’re thinking ahead and we’re trying to stay mentally in the game and mentally tough. We spent a lot of time talking about that and working on that, and I think it’s really showed.”

 

Boyertown ends its PAC slate against Owen J. Roberts (0-7), Methacton (4-3) and Pottsgrove (1-5) and added non-league games against Pope John Paul II and Upper Merion, who recently started competition.

Perkiomen Valley finishes its league slate with Spring-Ford (3-4), OJR and Methacton and added a non-league match with PJP as well. If both teams win out they’ll both claim a share of the 2020 PAC title.

NOTES >> Before Boyertown was allowed to admit spectators into its games, the Bears began to fill one side of their bleachers with cardboard cutouts, similar to what professional teams like the Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Phillies did at their games.

“We’ve been working on getting them up there just kind of to support the kids and have something to show them that their parents love them and care about them and that their families are there for them,” Ludwig said. “Because it’s hard. They put so much into it to not have your family around. Tonight was nice to have people here and be able to see them.”

Boyertown’s Adrianna Derstine hits a ball over the net as Perk Valley’s Allison Haflett, Samantha Corey and Naomi Clauhs attempt to block. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

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