Plymouth Whitemarsh holds on to edge Upper Dublin in five

WHITEMARSH >> The Plymouth Whitemarsh girls volleyball team had come too close to a win Monday night to let it slip away.

“We worked so hard for this we couldn’t let them come away with the win,” Colonials senior Jordan O’Brien said. “We just had to get our passes on, get our sets on, kill it out there with our hits.”

Leading 14-8 in the fifth set, PW needed just a point to put away visiting Upper Dublin. But the Cardinals kept staying alive and soon strung together seven consecutive points, the rally earning them a serve for the SOL American Conference match.

The Colonials, however, had the final say – answering’s UD’s run with a three-point burst to claim the deciding set and in a contest between two sides battling for spots in the District 1-4A playoffs came away with a 3-2 (15-25, 25-16, 25-21, 22-25, 17-15) victory.

“I didn’t think it would take that long to get to get that final point that we needed, which is why I just let it ride a little bit,” PW coach David Stewart said. “Normally, that puts pressure on a server in that situation and the girl did a nice job and put us on our heels and I think instead of them being nervous in the situation it turned out to us being nervous in the situation.”

Four straight points put the Colonials up 14-8 in the fifth but Sammy Silver dropped a ball just inside the end line to keep the Cardinals alive. UD proceeded to take the next five on Lauren Howie’s serve.

Charlotte Qi’s hit got over a block, dropping in the back after a touch to get the Upper Dublin to within 14-3. After a PW double tied the set, a long hit by the Colonials gave the Cards match point at 15-14.

“You’re kind of riding on a lot of emotions at that point and that’s why we keeping telling them you just never give up because whether you’re down six points or not, you got to close out and you got to execute,” Upper Dublin coach Paul Choi said. “And our DS (defensive specialist Howie) had a hell of a job at the serving line just keeping us in the game and playing some strong defense. Wish we weren’t in that situation but it shows that if we ever are in the future we can get out of them.”

Neve Straff pulled PW even at 15 with a hit tipping off the block. An O’Brien block put the home side up 16-15. On its seventh match point, the Colonials (6-2, 6-2 conference) finally sealed the win when Straff tapped down a ball at the net.

“We came out very strong and we were passing very good at first and then I forget what play it was, but we mess up one time and then it got in our head and then got a couple points,” O’Brien said. “But we picked it up at the end and we came out.”

It was the first of two matches in three days for SOL American squads – both looking to earn a spot in the 16-team district 4A field. PW came into Monday ranked 16th in the power rankings with Upper Dublin (5-4, 5-4) sitting 18th. The Colonials win moved them to 14th while the Cards dropped to 22nd.

“Luckily for us we play PW on Wednesday so when know that toward the end it’s going to be a battle and we know that if we make district it’s not going to get any easier,” Choi said. “So it’s just having that mindset of working hard, trusting each other, especially for these seniors with this type of season, trying to make the best of it.

UD hosts the return match with Plymouth Whitemarsh 5:15 p.m. Wednesday. The Colonials has one more match after – playing at home against Hatboro-Horsham 5 p.m. Friday.

“If we can win on Wednesday – 7-3, 8-2, we’re going to be in a nice position somewhere right in the middle of that 16 bracket which I kind of like,” said Stewart, who is back at PW after coaching the program from 1994-2008. “I love playing that area. The year in 2001 when we ended up going to states we were the 24th seed and I love that underdog role. I love coming and having people doubt us or whatever and we just kind of come and do our thing and take care of business. So hopefully the kids can do that on Wednesday and put us in a good position.”

Upper Dublin got off to a strong start Monday, jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the opening set – the last three points on Qi aces – and never trailed in the game. After PW pulled to within 8-7 on an O’Brien kill, UD won six of the next seven for a 14-8 lead. The Colonials could only cut their deficit to four from there, the Cardinals leading by as much as 10 twice – first at 22-12 on an Emily Senior kill then again at 25-15.

“First set, I think everything was working for us,” Choi said. “You get a little bit tired, step off the gas a little bit you become a little bit sloppy and any type of sloppiness PW took advantage of that. And it was shown.”

In the second game, the Colonials never relinquished the advantage after taking a 9-8 lead then won 12 of the next 18 to go up 21-14. UD ripped off two points to get within 21-16 but PW took the next four to pick up a 25-16 win, evening the match at a set apiece.

“The issue really was the frontcourt defense,” Stewart said. “Changing some things up there but we also talked about the defense that they were playing and where we wanted to try to put the ball, where we wanted our sets to be to try to put us in a position where we had open looks at open floor.”

A tight third game featured 13 ties, the last at 20-20 before a UD long hit gave Plymouth Whitemarsh the lead for good. After a timeout, the Colonials took the next two points to make it 23-20 before the Cards snapped the 3-0 spurt. PW, however, claimed the following two points, going up 2-1 in the match with a 25-21 win.

“Our passing wasn’t the best in the beginning so that also helped get our net stronger cause we were like ‘Oh we have to not let it get over to our side because our passing wasn’t the strongest right now,’” O’Brien said. “But we finally started picking it up getting in the groove and it started paying off and we were getting some kills.”

The fourth was another tight set but this one went the visitors to knot things 2-2. Upper Dublin went ahead for good at 7-6 and then used a 7-2 run to hold its largest lead at 18-12. PW got within two at 24-22 but the Cardinals finished the 25-22 win on the next point.

“They played like their backs were against the wall and it was,” Choi said. “And they decided to be all in, they’re laser-focused and they stayed disciplined, front row and back row.”

In the fifth, a 6-1 run put PW up 10-5. Upper Dublin took the next three to make it 10-8 but four in a row from the Colonials gave the hosts their first match point.

“They beat us last year so we were like we couldn’t let them beat us a second time,” O’Brien said. “So we really had to come out and play our best.”

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