Whip­pets ad­vance to 1st district semi­fi­nal

Whip­pets come back to beat Avon Grove, set up date with Shana­han

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Neil Geoghe­gan ngeoghe­gan@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @NeilMGeoghe­gan on Twit­ter

DOWN­ING­TOWN » With the way the District 1 4A vol­ley­ball tour­na­ment was seeded, the Ch­esMont league pow­er­houses were bound to even­tu­ally can­ni­bal­ize each other. That be­gan in earnest on Tues­day when fourth-seeded Down­ing­town West came from be­hind to edge No. 5 Avon Grove, 3-2, in quar­ter­fi­nal ac­tion.

Up next for the Whip­pets is the top seed and crosstown ri­val Bishop Shana­han. The Ea­gles cruised past Hat­boro-Hor­sham to set up an all Ches-Mont semi­fi­nal on Thurs­day at Shana­han. The tri­umph also se­cured a spot in the up­com­ing state tour­na­ment, which is a first for the pro­gram at West (17-2 over­all).

“It means a lot to this pro­gram,” said sopho­more Aly Rear­don.

“This is the fur­thest we’ve ever got­ten in dis­tricts,” added Down­ing­town West head coach David Par­rish. “This is a very big deal for us.”

The Red Devils fall to 21-3 over­all, but their sea­son will con­tinue in a play­back game Thurs­day against Hat­boro-Hor­sham, and an op­por­tu­nity to earn a state berth though the con­so­la­tion bracket. Avon Grove needs to win Thurs­day and again in Satur­day’s fifth-place game to earn a state brth.

“Our con­fer­ence is very strong, so of course we would want to see some of th­ese teams later in the post­sea­son,” ad­mit­ted Avon Grove head coach Ash­ley Focht. “We knew (West) from play­ing them in the reg­u­lar sea­son, so

we worked on the things we needed to work on — it just wasn’t enough.”

Trail­ing most of the evening and with their backs against the wall, the host Whip­pets finished strong in a must-win fourth set, and then car­ried the mo­men­tum over to the de­cid­ing fifth set. The scores were 24-26, 25-21, 18-25, 2519, 15-8.

“When the bracket came out, it looked like a Ch­esMont play­off for us, with (West Ch­ester) Rustin, then Avon Grove and now Shana­han,” Par­rish pointed out. “There is not much you can do about it. It would have been nice to see some teams not in our league, but that’s OK.”

Down 2-1, West scored the first five points of the fourth set, then al­lowed the Devils to come back and tie it four times, be­fore pulling away late. Se­nior hut­ter So­phie Gelling de­liv­ered three quick kills to pro­vide a cush­ion, and then Rear­don helped close it out with back-to-back kills to make it 24-17.

“We just seem to be able to find that ex­tra gear down the stretch, es­pe­cially in the last half of the fourth and on into the fifth,” Par­rish said. “Some­times you come back and work so hard to win that fourth match and then you lose your en­ergy. But we just found a way.”

In the de­cid­ing set, Gelling helped break open a 6-6 tie with four kills, and then Rear­don ended it with her 18th kill of the match. She also led the Whip­pets with 13 digs.

“We had the mo­men­tum head­ing into the fifth set, so it helped us and def­i­nitely car­ried over,” Rear­don said.

“For us it was men­tal,” Focht added. “At the end of the fourth, there were some things that didn’t go our way and it got into our heads. (West) had a run at the end and they car­ried that into the fifth set. That’s some­thing we have to work on.”

In the open­ing set, Avon Grove over­came a 10-4 deficit, and later a set point at 24-23. In all, the Red Devils scored the fi­nal three points to pull it out, 26-24, and the last two points came on blocks by Chloee Kleespies and Ayanna Turner. Down­ing­town West won the sec­ond set thanks to a 7-1 fin­ish, but Julia Crab­tree starred at the net for Avon Grove in set No. 3, set­ting the stage for the Whip­pets come­back.

“We started block­ing bet­ter in the lat­ter por­tion and that was a key,” Par­rish said.

“This team has shown amaz­ing re­silience. If Avon Grove passes well, they are tough to stop. But as the match went fur­ther, they started to crack a lit­tle on the pass­ing, and then they started spray­ing some balls around in the fourth. That gave us the con­fi­dence to get go­ing.”

Gelling finished with 15 kills and five blocks, and Hai­ley Lewis chipped in with six kills, seven aces and three blocks for West. The Devils got 19 kills and 17 digs from Crab­tree, and 16 kills and 16 digs from Kleespies.

Un­de­feated Shana­han handed West one of its two reg­u­lar sea­son losses back on Oct. 6th, sweep­ing the Whip­pets 25-16, 25-18, 25-13.

“I have a lot of friends that play for Shana­han, so I am ready to take them down,” Rear­don said.

“I think they are still ranked No. 1 in the state,” Par­rish added. “They are very, very good so we’ll just have to con­tinue to play our brand of vol­ley­ball, try to ex­e­cute and play great de­fense.”

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Down­ing­town West’s Ken­zie Pin­cura (17) fires a shot as Avon Grove’s Lilly Charl­ton and Ayanna Turner (16) de­fend Tues­day evening at Down­ing­town West. The Whip­pets won, three games to two.

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Down­ing­town West play­ers cel­e­brate a point against Avon Grove Tues­day evening at Down­ing­town West.

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Down­ing­town West’s Regina Schetroma (34) re­turns a serve against Avon Grove Tues­day evening at Down­ing­town West.

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