Connect with us


PIAA Class A Volleyball: Sacred Heart takes care of ‘unfinished business’ with Marian Catholic

Setter Annie Corcoran, left, and outside hitter Emily McKenna, powered Sacred Heart to a 3-0 victory over Lititz Christian in the opening round of the PIAA Class A volleyball playoffs (MediaNews Group photo)

ONTELAUNEE TWP. — Sacred Heart’s volleyball team didn’t need a reminder, but the T-shirt provided it anyway.

“Unfinished business,” it read in black type. The other two words that informed the slogan were implicit, offered in more hushed tones this week.

Marian Catholic has been Sacred Heart’s PIAA albatross for most of the last decade, a finite ceiling on the program’s growth. It came within two points of ending that domination in last fall’s PIAA semifinal. Given another shot at the District 11 power on Saturday, Sacred Heart left absolutely no doubt.

With Annie Corcoran setting the table for an efficient attack and the Lions applying service pressure from the start, Sacred Heart nabbed a 3-1 victory at Schuylkill Valley High School.

“We just came in with already so much energy to play this game, and it was evident in the first set,” Sacred Heart libero Bella O’Toole said. “We came out very excited, very powerful, and that was the basis. We’re like, we’re not ending in the state quarterfinals; we’re going to the semis.”

The nightmares wrought by the Fillies go back far longer than last year, when Sacred Heart won a first-round five-setter over Mt. Calvary, then rallied back from two sets down to force the fifth against Marian, only to lose, 16-14. All seven of Sacred Heart’s states berths since 2012 have ended at the hands of a District 11 team, including five losses to Marian.

Changing that history was the animating quest of this year’s Lions, and from the first serve, they showed it. They dominated Marian, 25-10 and 25-19, in the first two sets. Even when Marian found a foothold in the game in the third, winning 25-22, Sacred Heart made the Fillies work for everything, pushing it to a fourth set point before Meghan Paisley put away a kill.

“Our servers came out better than ever,” Marian Catholic libero Lauren Reaman said. “We were working as a unit, and we just gained the confidence that we could do it. We were physically capable today, but we just fell short in certain areas, and in that third set, that was the pinnacle of what we could play as.”

The momentum of the 4-0 run on the serve of Macie Moresco led straight into a 10-4 start to the fourth for Sacred Heart. The Fillies never got closer than three the rest of the way.

“If they just blew us out in the third set and we lost by seven, our momentum would (have been) really down,” O’Toole said. “We’d come out in the fourth really sloppy and continue what happened in the third set. But the fact that we came back to 25-22 and really brought our energy, we had the momentum at the end of the game.”

Corcoran, the sophomore setter, orchestrated the attack, crossing the 1,000-assist threshold for her career. Time and again, she pressed the Lions’ advantage on the left. That’s where Emily McKenna (19 kills) and Aly Albanese (eight kills) swung through the Marian block attempts more often than not.

“We definitely noticed that they weren’t really covering that spot, so we decided to hit that,” Albanese said. “And after we kept piling on the kills, we kept going to that spot.”

The first set was built on Sacred Heart’s serving. Moresco powered in back-to-back aces in the middle of that set, and it wasn’t until Marian came to terms with Sacred Heart’s deep, probing serves that it started to get a balance. Reaman led Marian’s defense with 15 digs. Paisley and Abigail Kluck tucked away seven kills each, Rhiannon Brady added six and Ashlyn Klitsch dished 22 assists.

Sacred Heart had too many options for Marian to contain. The Lions dominated the middle thanks to four blocks by Elizabeth Cuskey and two each from Lilly Hornickle and Albanese. O’Toole led the defense with 15 digs, Rylee Fisher provided four aces and Corcoran added five kills, including a devastating quick tap to start the fourth set.

For the second straight year, Sacred Heart is in the state semifinal, awaiting the winner of District 4 champ Canton and District 5 winner Berlin Brothersvalley. For the first time, though, it has won two states contests in the same knockout tournament. That’s particularly special for the veterans who endured last year’s heartache.

“This was really for that team,” Albanese said. “It’s so exciting that we got to beat them in four sets, and we get to keep going.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Recent News