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Unionville girls volleyball team remains unbeaten, sweeps D-West

Downingtown >> The undefeated Unionville girls’ volleyball team, facing a Downingtown West squad that entered Thursday’s contest with a 6-1 record, kept its record perfect as the Longhorns defeated the Whippets, 3-0, posting scores of 25-8, 25-13 and 25-17.

The Longhorns, who advanced to the PIAA Class 4A state championship game last year, currently have a 6-0 record.

Unionville senior outside hitter Maddy Lowe, an All-State girls’ volleyball selection last year, reflected on the Longhorns’ powerful start this fall: “I think it’s a matter of everybody stepping up and being a leader on the court. We lost some pretty good players to graduation last spring, so everyone had to step up.”

The graduated players Lowe was referring to were outside hitter Sophie Brenner, the Daily Local News 2020 Girls Volleyball Player of the Year, and standout setter Ashlyn Wiswall.

Lowe said, “We’ve been working on communication a lot this season, so everyone on our team being really loud and getting into it [has been important].”

Unionville senior middle hitter Genna Weeber, who received Daily Local News second team All-Area girls volleyball recognition last fall, said, “I think our team really bonds together well; we really love each other and love the game. We love going out there, and we really want it.”

Downingtown West head coach Dave Parrish, whose squad’s only losses this fall have been to Unionville and Bishop Shanahan, said, “Unionville serves very tough, sideline to sideline, and very deep. They’re an excellent defensive team, they were able to dig our attacks, stay in system and get a good swing. And they have a lot of good hitters. Both outsides were very good, and when they can get it to the middle, that’s definitely an advantage for them.”

In the first set, Unionville fell behind 3-0 but then went on a 12-1 run, and finished the set with a red-hot 11-1 run. The Longhorns fell behind 7-2 in the second set, but then went on a 22-3 run.

A key factor for the Longhorns Thursday was the hitting prowess of Lowe (9 kills), Weeber (6 kills, 5 blocks) and senior middle hitter Emily Harper (4 kills, 3 blocks).

Lowe said, “I think we came into today’s game with a lot of energy, which is always good, but coming into the second set after a win is always tough. You kind of go into it with a mindset of, ‘We just won, so it’s OK.’ So we had to keep our energy up the whole time.”

Weeber said, “I think we all have a lot of trust in each other that we can come back [from a deficit].”

Unionville head coach Stephanie Smith said, “As a team, we’re trying to focus on playing at our level, and making sure we don’t let little points drop, so it was a matter of re-focusing after winning the first set.”

Jillian Murphy (5 kills) and Brianna Miller (4 kills) added to the potent Unionville attack Thursday.

“We’ve been working a lot on our offense, and having our big hitters up there is definitely making a difference,” said Smith. Genna and Emily in the middle, they can be unstoppable. And Maddy is so consistent on the outside, it helps us score those big points.

“We also have a couple of sophomore outside hitters, Brianna Miller and Avery Wiswall, who, for being sophomores, are really making an impact on the court right now. They’re both getting kills, and Avery is playing incredible defense in the back row, and I think they both have a big future.”

Other key Unionville contributors Thursday included RaeAnn Dowling (19 assists) and Emma Yin (four aces).

Parrish said, “The level that you have to be at, to get to that elite status [like Unionville and Bishop Shanahan], I think we learned today that we have a lot of things we have to work on. Some of the simple stuff that we need to be more precise on – coverage of hitters and front-row defense, things like that – we can improve on.”

For Downingtown West (6-2), senior setter/right side hitter Jenna Schuda led the Whippets Thursday with five kills and four aces. Junior outside hitter Camryn Tuffner had three kills.

Parrish said, “Jen Schuda is the glue that holds everything together, as both an attacker and a setter. Camryn has been averaging about 3 kills per set, and [middle blocker] Grace Poluch has been averaging about 2 kills per set and has been contributing from the service line very well. [Libero] Claudia Bournazel has been passing well and playing defense very well.”

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