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Pope John Paul II, Boyertown punch tickets to PAC final

GRATERFORD >> The last two Pioneer Athletic Conference champions will meet for the 2021 crown. 

Pope John Paul II, the 2019 champion that didn’t compete in the PAC in 2020 due to the pandemic, and 2020 champion Boyertown won their semifinal matchups Tuesday night at Perkiomen Valley High School. The final is set for Thursday at 7 p.m. back at PV. 

“We’re excited (to defend the title),” Boyertown coach Mike Ludwig said. “We want to go out and compete. We had a really good match with Pope the first time around (3-1 PJP win on Oct. 7). They’re a great team and we’re excited to get an opportunity to come back and play them again.” 

PJP won its semifinal over Perk Valley in five sets – 25-27, 25-23, 25-14, 24-26, 15-7 – while Boyertown handled Upper Merion in four – 25-22, 25-17, 21-25, 25-14. 

“I’ve never felt this because I’m only a sophomore,” PJP’s Hutton Cordrey said. “It’s really nice to get excited for every point.”

Pope John Paul II dominated the decisive fifth set to advance to the championship match. The Golden Panthers won five straight points – with Bella Honick serving – and 10 of 12 to turn a 4-4 tie into a 14-6 lead. 

“At the end of the fourth set when we lost, we didn’t really talk about that,” PJP coach Ryan Sell said. “We just said hey we’re moving forward. That’s all we can do. We flipped our lineup there for the fifth set and I thought that worked out in our advantage. We were trying to stay away from some matchups, but in the fifth set we just went for it.” 

Cordrey finished the set with a kill to send PJP to the final. 

Cordrey totaled 17 kills and 40 digs in the win. Natalie Ricevuto had 19 kills, Zoey George 15 kills and Cathleen Mckendry 11 kills. Erin Dychdala had 55 assists while Grace Cooper added 30 digs and Cindy Jin 28 digs. 

The two teams went back and forth over the first four sets, with Perk Valley winning the first and fourth sets and PJP winning the second and third. 

Perk Valley used a 10-2 run to take a 17-11 lead in the first. The Golden Panthers rallied to tie the game at 19 and the set stayed close the rest of the way until PV won, 27-25.

PJP got out to a fast start in the second set, leading 10-3. PV responded and took a 15-14 lead and it was back-and-forth until the Golden Panthers closed it out, 25-23.

Cooper served a 9-0 run to break an 8-8 tie and help PJP take a 2-1 lead with a 25-14 third-set win.

PJP had a 16-13 lead to close out the match in the fourth set, but PV answered with five straight points and eight of the next nine to take a 21-17 lead. The Golden Panthers tied the game at 24, but a Lilah Maus kill and a PJP shot that was too long gave Perk Valley a 26-24 win to extend the match.

“I’m super proud of my kids,” PV coach Jessica Highley said. “They came out and showed up this time. When we played them earlier in the season it was ugly and it was three-and-out, but they came out today ready to perform and I think they gave PJP a heck of a fight.”

Maus finished with 18 kills and 18 digs. Naomi Clauhs added 16 kills, 18 assists and 22 digs. 

In the second semifinal, Boyertown got off to a slow start in the first set. After trailing 18-15, the Bears rattled off a 7-1 run with Emma Smith serving to take a 22-19 lead. They closed out the first set, 25-22.

Boyertown carried that momentum into the second set and started with a 6-2 lead. Upper Merion got as close as 15-13, but a 6-1 Bears run extended the lead to 21-14 before taking a commanding 2-0 advantage, 25-17. 

Upper Merion took the third set, 25-21. They used an 8-3 run to extend an 8-7 lead to 16-10. Boyertown used a late 6-0 run to get close, but Upper Merion was able to close it out and extend the match. 

Boyertown punched its ticket to the final in the fourth set. The Bears jumped out to a 15-3 lead and cruised to a 25-14 win. 

Adrianna Derstine led the Bears with 24 kills and added 13 digs. Smith tallied a team-high 14 digs while Grace Rinehimer led the way with 44 assists.

Sophia Schweikert led Upper Merion with 19 kills and 24 digs. Vanessa Hutchinson added 18 digs and Julia Giammarco had 15. 

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