DENVER >> Pope John Paul II got off to a slow start in all but one set in Saturday afternoon’s PIAA Class 3A girls volleyball quarterfinal. And that ultimately cost the Golden Panthers in a season-ending 3-2 loss to Spring Grove at Cocalico High School.
The Rockets (25-1) – winners by scores of 19-25, 25-14, 22-25, 25-12,15-5 – advance to a semifinal on Tuesday against defending state champion Bethlehem Catholic, a 3-1 winner over York Suburban.
Hailey Wolfe had 23 kills – including the 1,000th of her career – Navaeh Wolfe had 24 kills and Maddie Ruhland led Spring Grove with 57 assists and 16 digs. Hutton Cordrey led the Panthers with 12 kills and 16 digs and Erin Dychdala contributed 28 assists.
The Golden Panthers (18-4) won eight out of the last 10 points to take a back-and-forth opening set, but then fell behind by scores of 4-0, 5-1, 7-1 and 6-1 in the other four.
“Slow starts kind of plagued us,” said PJP coach Ryan Sell. “Both of those kids (twin sisters Hailey and Navaeh Wolfe) are good. We knew that. We were out of our system a good deal of the time. They were good when they needed to be good.”
“I think definitely siding out the first balls,” Hailey Wolfe said concerning the key to the win. “We never really got down on ourselves. Everybody boosted each other up.”
Navaeh Wolfe began the fifth set with a kill off a pass from Ruhland and Hailey Wolfe scored off a pass from McKenzie Boyer for a 2-1 advantage. Then Mylie Ormond scored on an ace and a hit out of bounds by PJP, a block and a point by Macey Baum quickly made it 6-1. Hailey Wolfe served five straight points for a 13-3 lead and Ormond finished up the match with a block.
Earlier, PJP took an 18-17 lead in the first set for the fifth lead change. Then Bella Honick served five straight points for the Panthers and Cindy Jin finished up the set with an ace.
Spring Grove led all the way in the second set. But PJP shook off its sluggish start in the third and took its first lead at 16-15. Then PJP broke a 21-all tie with a kill off a block by Cathleen McKendry and two more of the same by Cordrey and won it on two more kills by Cordrey, both assisted by Dychdala.
In the fourth set, the Golden Panthers climbed back to within 11-8, but the District 3 champion Rockets ran off four straight points and pulled away from there.
“We’ve just been stressing patience and playing our speed of game,” said Rocket coach Liz Zeigler. “And letting the other team wear down.”
Spring Grove varied its attacks throughout the afternoon with an assortment of straight-on slams, cross-court shots and dinks.
“Having all the tools in your pocket is good,” said Hailey Wolfe. “If one’s not working, you have others to rely on.”
“She has a lot of shots,” added Zeigler. “They play a lot of beach, so they’re used to a lot of different shots.”
Spring Grove’s only loss came against York Suburban in the York/Adams League final, but the Rockets defeated that same team to win the district title and advance to states for the first time.
“I think we said that goal (making it to states), every year,” said senior Hailey Wolfe, who recorded her 1,000th kill early in the second set. “This year we made it. I’m just excited because our team is always excited to play. The longer I can play with them, the better.”
Natalie Ricevuto had eight kills for the Golden Panthers and McKendry had four, Grace Cooper and Jin each made 15 digs and Honick served four aces.
PJP made it to states by virtue of winning its third straight District 1 title.
“The season was pretty good,” said Sell. “We had a lot of young kids on the team. It was a growing year for them. The seniors (McKendry, Dychdala, Zoe George, Kristina Rist, Juliann Raftery) did a good job of leading the team. We’re going to miss those kids.”
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