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PIAA Class A Volleyball: O’Toole, Sacred Heart have tall challenge in state final

RADNOR — Whenever there’s a timeout, Sacred Heart volleyball coach Sam Moyerman doesn’t get in the huddle and give instructions. He likes to collect his thoughts, then talk to the team with a minute or 30 seconds left in the stoppage.

“I’ll walk up there and Bella’s already saying a lot of the things I was going to say,” Moyerman said. “I’m like, ‘Cool. She’s got me covered.’”

That would be Bella O’Toole, the libero, the only senior on a team that consists of seven sophomores and four juniors.

“I definitely take control on the court, during pep talks and everything, before and after matches, in between sets, just keep everyone level-headed, staying in the game, especially up two sets,” O’Toole said. “It’s very hard to go out in the third and try to perform because you already won the first two. I just try to let the girls know that the other team is not going to give it to us. We have to work for it, so we have to keep playing the way we’ve been playing.”

O’Toole is the glue behind Sacred Heart’s run to the PIAA Class A final, which pits the Lions (19-7) against defending champion Clarion Area (20-0) Saturday (10:30 a.m.) at Cumberland Valley High School.

It’s the first state final appearance by a team from Sacred Heart in school history in any sport and just the second by a Delco team in volleyball.

“This is best senior season I could have asked for,” O’Toole said. “Ever since freshman year it’s been such a dream to go to the state championship in my senior year. And the best thing is all these girls are my best friends and to be able to go with them is an amazing experience.”

The Lions have their hands full. The Bobcats are ranked No. 1 in Class A by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association. Clarion has won 44 matches in a row and has only lost two sets all season. That came in a 3-2 victory over Warren on Sept. 20. The Bobcats have won 50 straight sets since.

“We know they have Korrin Burns on the outside,” O’Toole said. “She’s a very good player, D1 next year. She’s going to St. Francis (Pa.). … The other outside hitter is good. The setter is good. The libero is good. They’re just a well put-together team.”

The Lions are solid, too. Sacred Heart, ranked No. 2 in Class A by the PVCA, is riding a five-match winning streak and has lost just one set since the playoffs began.

“We’ve prepared for the last three years to get to this spot,” O’Toole said. “Seeing all of our hard work pay off has been awesome.”

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