Park­land stuns Shana­han

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

READ­ING » Few op­po­nents have been able to deal with, much less coun­ter­act, Bishop Shana­han’s power game at the net. But on Tues­day in the semi­fi­nals of the PIAA Class 4A vol­ley­ball tour­na­ment, Park­land did ex­actly that.

Led by block­ers Sam Graver and Mor­gan Sher­win, the District 11 cham­pi­ons handed the Ea­gles their only loss of the sea­son, and

and in the process ousted Shana­han from post­sea­son play just one game shy of a berth in the state fi­nal. The scores from Ex­eter Town­ship High School were 2518, 27-29, 25-21, 25-23.

“Park­land has the two real good block­ers. We knew they’d give us trou­ble, and they did at times,” said Shana­han head coach Greg Ash­man.

“Against op­po­nents that block well, you have to hit around them,” added fresh­man out­side hit­ter Cara Shultz. “I strug­gled with that tonight. We have to learn to bet­ter ad­just.”

Play­ing in semi­fi­nals for the first time since 2009, the Ea­gles split the first two sets, only to drop the fi­nal two af­ter get­ting off to shaky starts in both. Shana­han wraps up the sea­son with a 24-1 over­all mark, which is re­mark­able con­sid­er­ing there was only two se­niors -- Alexa Mar­cum and Jenna Los­tito – in the play­ing ro­ta­tion.

“If you would have told me we’d be a set away from mak­ing it to the fi­nals, I wouldn’t have be­lieved you -- not with the ros­ter we had,” Ash­man said.

“We were young this sea­son, but we were re­silient and I think we proved a lot of peo­ple wrong,” Mar­cum added. “There is so much room for this group to im­prove, and I think they will be great for sev­eral years.”

Now 24-1 over­all, Park­land will play the Gar­net Val­ley-State Col­lege win­ner for the state ti­tle on Satur­day in John­stown.

“We al­ways scrim­mage Shana­han in the pre­sea­son be­cause they are al­ways one of the best teams in the state, and it’s al­ways a war against them,” said Park­land head coach Mike Krause. “They have such good play­ers, like the Shultz sis­ters.

“We knew we had to play con­sis­tently from ev­ery po­si­tion be­cause if some­body was off, they would find it.”

There were six ties in the early go­ing of the open­ing set, but Park­land opened a 15-11 mar­gin with an 8-2 rally and never trailed again.

That made the sec­ond set all the more cru­cial, and Shana­han came through with a 29-27 win de­spite blow­ing leads of 13-8 and 24-22. Cara Shultz de­liv­ered six kills and an ace in the set and sis­ter Re­nee Shultz chipped in three late kills and a big block.

“One thing this team has never done is give up,” Ash­man said. “We preach ev­ery ball, ev­ery play of ev­ery point, and they did that.”

The two-time de­fend­ing District 1 cham­pi­ons, Shana­han trailed early in each of the fi­nal two sets. And even though the Ea­gles came back in both, the early hole was sim­ply too deep to re­cover. The Tro­jans scored the first seven points in set No. 3, and were ahead 10-3 in the early go­ing in the fourth. Ash­man called a time­out in both in­stances, but the dam­age had been done.

“Maybe we just let them go one or two points too far,” Ash­man said.

“We told our­selves we weren’t go­ing to get down early, and it was just men­tal er­rors,” Mar­cum added. “We came back but it was a lit­tle too late.”

Just a rookie, Cara Shultz wrapped up an amaz­ing first high school sea­son with a team-high 23 kills, and added 16 digs and two aces. Her sis­ter Re­nee chipped in with 16 kills, 21 as­sists and seven digs.

“That team (Park­land) will prob­a­bly win the state ti­tle and we hung with them,” Cara Shultz said.

“I think our fu­ture is very bright. I think in the next three sea­sons we can win states.”

Play­ing for the fi­nal time in high school, Los­ito de­liv­ered 18 digs and Mar­cum added four kills and eight digs.

Af­ter­wards, Ash­man down­played the no­tion that Shana­han may have been feel­ing any ad­di­tional pres­sure be­cause it headed into the fi­nal four with an un­blem­ished record.

“I don’t think pres­sure had any­thing to do with it,” he said. “We talked be­fore the sea­son about how a cham­pion re­sponds – when ev­ery­one looks at you and puts you on a pedestal, how do you re­spond? All year long our kids re­sponded.”

Cara Shultz agreed: “There is al­ways pres­sure go­ing into the play­offs whether you are un­de­feated or not. Our team played its hard­est and it was just that we ran into a very good team.”

PETE BAN­NAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Bishop Shana­han play­ers re­act af­ter fall­ing to Park­land in four games Tues­day.

PETE BAN­NAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Re­nee Shultz of Bishop Shana­han at­tempts a kill while Park­land’s Grace Steurer de­fends in the fourth game of Tues­day’s PIAA Class AAAA semi­fi­nal at Ex­eter High School.

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