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Unionville volleyball squad remains perfect after sweeping up-and-coming Avon Grove

East Marlborough >> Facing an up-and-coming, never-say-die Avon Grove girls volleyball squad that entered Thursday’s contest with a 7-1 record, host Unionville started a bit slowly but gathered momentum en route to a 3-0 sweep, posting scores of 25-17, 25-19 and 25-13.
The Longhorns are now 10-0, and are ranked first in the PIAA District 1 4A volleyball rankings.
“We want to focus on having high energy starting off each game strongly, and it’s taken us a couple of matches to get there, but we’re starting to find it,” said Unionville head coach Stephanie Smith.
The Longhorns had a deep lineup of contributors to Thursday’s win, and when Smith was asked what aspect of the team pleases her most about the Longhorns, she replied, “The cohesiveness of our team – I think everybody brings something to our team, and we’re very balanced. We have strong hitters – outside, middle, right side – and our defense is very strong. Sometimes that can be tough to go up against, when you can run anything. Our players also support each other, they’re great teammates and I love that about them.”
In the first set, Avon Grove hung tough against the hosts, trailing Unionville by just one point at 6-5 before the Longhorns gradually pulled away for a 25-17 victory. One big key in the first set was the play of their middles, senior captain Jillian Murphy (5 kills, 5 blocks) and junior Vivian Geiger (4 kills, 5 blocks).
“Jillian is a leader on the court, and she always makes herself available to swing,” said Smith. “It’s the same thing with Vivian. After losing two 6-foot middles (Genna Weeber, Emily Harper) to graduation last spring, it’s been a puzzle for us to find and figure out who is going to be in that position this season. Jillian and Vivian have really been stepping into that role; they’ve been big shoes to fill but they’re both really doing a nice job.”
In the second set, the Red Devils stayed within three points of Unionville late into the match (22-19) but a well-placed tip at the net by 2021 PVCA all-state selection Maddie Lowe (5 kills, 5 digs) boosted the Longhorns to a closing 3-0 run and a 25-19 win. Ava Brenner (5 kills) also made some timely kills for the Longhorns in the second set.
“Ava is tall and does a nice job on the right side,” said Smith. “She brings a lot of energy to the team.”
Avon Grove started off the third set strongly, taking a 7-4 lead, much to the delight of the solid contingent of spirited Red Devil fans in the Unionville gym.
“They [Avon Grove] really challenged us today, brought their ‘A’ game and a lot of energy today,” said Smith. “They really made us play, and they had some fans out there that really kind of brought some energy as well.”
Unionville then ran off six straight points, led by kills from Geiger, Brenner and outside hitter Brianna Miller (8 kills, 4 digs), then closed out the set with a 15-5 run to end the match.
Other contributors for the Longhorns included setters Olivia Harper (17 assists) and Delaney McCoy (11 assists), and junior libero Ava Van Deusen, who Smith said has been doing a “fantastic” job for the Longhorns.
For Avon Grove, key contributors included senior outside hitter and Rowan University commit Alexa Kelleher (5 kills, 14 digs), senior libero Ashley Barnett (9 digs), senior setter Jaedyn Laws (13 assists) and senior middle Ela Ergin.
“I’m really proud of how our girls played today,” said Avon Grove second-year head coach Chantel Brown. “They played really well. It’s good for us to play a really good team like Unionville, so we can become better.”
Last year, Avon Grove was ranked 26th in District 1 4A (with a won-loss record of 8-9) and just missed the district playoffs (top 24 teams). This year, the Red Devils’ goal is to make Districts. Before Thursday’s defeat, Avon Grove was ranked 8th in the 4A rankings.
“It’s been a fun year, this is a great group of girls who have gotten used to playing with each other,” said Brown. “They’re comfortable with each other and they trust each other on the court.”

 

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