[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”29″ display=”basic_slideshow”]EAST MARLBOROUGH >> Unionville captured its first girls volleyball district title in a quarter century in impressive fashion, sweeping past Council Rock North, 3-0, in the PIAA District 1 4A championship final at Unionville High School on Thursday.
Unionville (12-0), the top seed in the District 1 4A bracket, built small early leads in each of the three sets, then gradually increased those leads as the contests wore on.
The hosts posted scores of 25-13, 25-17 and 25-14 against a third-seeded Council Rock squad that had dropped only two sets all season and came into the contest with a 14-0 record.
After the methodical, workmanlike three-set win, the Unionville players let their emotions flow.
“I was so excited when the game was over — I feel like we’re making history with this season,” said Unionville senior outside hitter Sophie Brenner, who pitched in with 15 kills. “We really have a special connection with each other on this team; we work so well together. I’m going to remember everything about tonight; I just love this team so much and I’m going to remember the friendships that I made with this team [most of all].”
“It was so exciting when the final game ended and we were district champs,” said Unionville senior setter Ashlyn Wiswall, who dished out 21 assists Thursday night. “We hadn’t won Districts in a long time, and our competitiveness, positive attitude and energy have really contributed to our success this season.”
Unionville head coach Stephanie Smith said, “2020 has been filled with all kinds of craziness, but this [title] has been a highlight of this year, and of my coaching career. I think our players’ commitment level has been one of the highlights of our season. Whether we were playing outside, because we weren’t allowed inside at the beginning [of the season], or inside, the girls showed up and worked hard. They wanted this [title] — they’re driven.”
With the victory, Unionville now advances to the PIAA Class 4A quarterfinals, where it will host District 12 champion Archbishop Carroll Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.
In the opening set Thursday, Unionville never trailed, gradually building a lead with the help of some strong hitting by Brenner and Maddy Lowe (seven kills Thursday) as well as a few unforced errors by Council Rock North.
“Unionville is a very well-rounded team and a well-coached team,” said Council Rock head coach Mike Adams. “They played aggressively but stayed under control.”
In the second set, Council Rock North took an early 3-2 lead, and hung close to Unionville, trailing only 8-7 a third of the way into the match.
At that point, the hosts went on an 11-5 run, with some strong hitting by Brenner, sophomore right side Jillian Murphy (five kills) and junior middle hitter Emily Harper. Junior middle hitter Genna Weeber came up with some key blocks as well, and Unionville played consistently the rest of the way for a 25-17 win and a 2-0 lead for the hosts.
Three days earlier, Unionville had taken a similar 2-0 lead against Bishop Shanahan in the District 1 4A semifinal, and saw the Eagles roar back to win the next two sets and almost capture the fifth and deciding set.
But on Thursday evening, there was no comeback by Council Rock North in the third set, as Unionville jumped out to a 9-3 lead with a couple of Brenner kills.
Although CR North cut the hosts’ lead to 17-13 with some fine play from standout junior Ashleigh Adams, Unionville finished the third set like a champion, closing on an 8-1 run for a 25-14 win and the district title.
Weeber said, “When the game ended, I was just like, ‘Wow this is amazing that we got here [to the final] and won, it’s so cool. I just think [this title] shows the close bonds of our team, we’re all such great friends. We love to practice, and to be with each other.”
Lowe said, “We’ve just been working so hard for this [district title]; we’re pumped and we’re ready to go to states and win it. I watched my older sister Alli play for Unionville, and this has just been my dream — it’s awesome. We put in so much effort at practice and in games; and we always come out with the mindset that we’re going to win. I’m going to remember how much this [title] means to us and how excited we are tonight.”