Bears beat PAC cham­pion PJP

The Boyertown Area Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Austin Hert­zog ahert­zog@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @AustinHert­zog on Twit­ter

BOYERTOWN >> Vol­ley­ball play­ers know how to cel­e­brate. They do it af­ter just about ev­ery point.

But there’s an ex­tra flair to the way the Boyertown girls vol­ley­ball team cel­e­brates a block: arms in the sky, full stretch, fin­gers out and ... ‘Boom!’

That might have also been the sound the rest of the Pioneer Ath­letic Con­fer­ence vol­ley­ball scene made when hear­ing the Bears’ re­sult Thurs­day night.

The Bears’ block cel­e­bra­tion proved piv­otal when a pair of Olivia Hur­ley blocks in the fourth set swung mo­men­tum back in Boyertown’s fa­vor be­fore Tay­lor Jones and com­pany came up clutch to see out a fourset vic­tory, 3-1, over reign­ing PAC cham­pion Pope John Paul II on the Bears’ home floor. Set scores were 25-22, 25-22, 18-25, 26-24.

Se­nior out­side hit­ter Jones starred for Boyertown, which im­proved to 11-3 over­all (5-2 PAC), with 25 kills and 16 digs. She was ev­ery­where for the Bears and came up with the kill at 24-24 in the fourth set that led to a PJP er­ror on the Bears’ fifth match point.

Sopho­more Emma Lud­wig had a big night as well with 25 as­sists, 14 digs, eight kills and five aces. Her serving was cru­cial, pro­vid­ing an eight-point run early in the fourth set that got Boyertown back in a win­ning po­si­tion. Ju­nior Emily Wolfe added seven digs and six kills and ju­nior libero Ju­lia Smith had 17 digs and seven as­sists. Sta­tis­ti­cal lead­ers for PJP were Sarah Ward (17 kills), Chelsea Har­vey (21 as­sists) and Si­mone Sparano (22 digs).

The fledg­ling Boyertown pro­gram has made a big leap this fall and has an­nounced it­self as a PAC con­tender af­ter wins over tra­di­tional play­off teams Spring-Ford and now PJP. It is ranked No. 7 in the Dis­trict 1-4A power rank­ings af­ter Thurs­day’s win.

“We’ve grown so much,” Jones said. “It’s a lot of the chem­istry we’ve built since last year, it’s con­nect­ing a lot bet­ter. A lot of the girls are play­ing bet­ter to­gether and we know each other.”

The Golden Pan­thers are one of the league’s tra­di­tional pow­ers as the twotime de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons. While many faces from last year’s squad are back like set­ter Har­vey, Sparano, Mikaela Mon­roe and Made­line Mulc­a­hey, things are yet to click for PJP. Nev­er­the­less, PJP is 7-3 with two of the losses com­ing from un­de­feated Up­per Merion.

“Ev­ery time we’re play­ing, we’re learn­ing more about the team,” coach Ryan Sell said. “This team is get­ting bet­ter and more con­fi­dent, but this is a tough loss, for sure. Boyertown’s hav­ing a re­ally nice year.”

Find­ing the right roles has been a chal­lenge af­ter the grad­u­a­tion of last year’s Mer­cury All-Area Player of the Year Mary Kate Mooney (Blooms­burg).

“Mary Kate was our goto kid and we could rely on her when­ever we needed a point. Now we’re try­ing to fig­ure out who is go­ing to fill that void,” Sell said. “It doesn’t have to be one per­son, but right now we’re still try­ing to fig­ure it out.”

The Bears have the lux­ury of hav­ing a go-to player in Jones.

“I have a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence and as a cap­tain I feel like the girls look up to me to make big plays,” she said.

The Bears were sim­ply the sharper team in their pass­ing and serving while win­ning the first two sets, but PJP came to life in the third set, dom­i­nat­ing the en­tire game. The Golden Pan­thers car­ried that over into the fourth and looked ready to roll again. But Lud­wig’s eight-point ser­vice run and ‘boom’-wor­thy blocks from Hur­ley (five blocks) – ‘I throw it up,’ said Jones on the Bears’ em­phatic block cel­e­bra­tion – changed the game and kept the Bears on course for all the cel­e­brat­ing they keep get­ting to do.

“You def­i­nitely could feel it,” Jones said of the mo­men­tum change. “You’re com­ing back from a cou­ple points and you get a cou­ple blocks, that’s a ma­jor point. You feel (the op­po­nent) los­ing their en­ergy. When the ball hits the floor it’s the best feel­ing be­cause they can’t do any­thing about it.”

It’s all come to­gether nicely for Boyertown this fall.

“We have some re­ally good play­ers and the girls have bought into play­ing their role and mak­ing plays when they’re needed to be made,” coach Mike Lud­wig said. “Tay­lor Jones is our se­nior leader and she is a great vol­ley­ball player. We have a lot of kids that are re­ally im­por­tant for us: Emily Wolfe came into the pro­gram this year and she’s a huge as­set in the mid­dle, Emma Lud­wig backs up on the out­side, is set­ting, hit­ting, do­ing ev­ery­thing. Olivia Hur­ley, who just picked up vol­ley­ball three years ago, is get­ting big-time blocks against big­time play­ers in the fourth set. She is a great ath­lete and has worked re­ally hard on her block­ing.”

Now, the Bears have their eye on the prize, ac­cord­ing to Jones.

“Our main goal is PACs,” Jones said. “We’re go­ing to come back from our loss to Up­per Merion (3-1 on Sept .13) – we want to beat them – and hope­fully take it all the way.”

AUSTIN HERT­ZOG - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

The Boyertown girls vol­ley­ball team cel­e­brates af­ter de­feat­ing Pope John Paul II in four sets Thurs­day night.

Boyertown’s Emma Lud­wig (13) hits through Pope John Paul II block­ers Mikaela Mon­roe (16) and Chelsea Har­vey (25).

AUSTIN HERT­ZOG - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Boyertown’s Emily Wolfe (19) tips the ball over the net against Pope John Paul II.

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