that was the best we played all season so I’m happy with how we did.”
“That was a tough one. We’re winning the first and the third sets by decent amounts and we just couldn’t finish,” PJP coach Ryan Sell said. “We couldn’t score two points in a row when it mattered most.”
That had a lot to do with the quality of District 3 champion West York (231), which was led by senior Julia Rill (15 kills, 10 digs), senior Gianna Krinock (7 kills, 17 digs, 17 service points), and junior libero Kam Hepler (19 digs). The Bulldogs advance to the semifinals on Nov. 13 where it will meet District 11 champion Allentown Central Catholic (3-0 winner over Villa Maria Saturday) for the second straight year in the Final Four.
Junior outside hitter Sarah Ward’s 11 kills were a team-high while sophomore Chelsea Harvey (27 assists, five kills) and senior Mikaela Monroe (five kills) were other key contributors for PJP.
In the first game, PJP worked the biggest lead of the set (3 points) to 23-20 and 24-21, game points in hand. But the nerves crept in and West York’s level raised as it rattled off five straight points, the last two by way of net violations for the 26-24 win. The second game was equally tight up to 22-22. But the Bulldogs won a long, scrambling point for the lead and Tesia Thomas’ kill punctuated the 25-22 win. Game 3 was eeriely familiar as PJP led 24-22, only to be overtaken with a four-point run by West York that was highlighted by athletic kills from Thomas and Rill.
“I think there were some nerves,” Sparano said. “Especially in the last (set) because of the way we’d lost the first two. We felt like we could do it this time, but there was some angst about it. I don’t think we’ve ever had this problem before. It’s a state tournament game and you’re always going to be nervous especially in those really tight moments. They just came out on top this time.”
Pope John Paul II (147) equaled its postseason run of the previous season though it wasn’t able to duplicate the championship moments of 2017, settling for silver in the Pioneer Athletic Conference and District 1 tournaments.
“Even if we didn’t accomplish what we did last year, I still think it was a great season,” Sparano said. “Last year, our leaders were our seniors, so losing them was a tough loss. But I think we were able to regroup and create our own leadership. We had 10 seniors and I think we all stepped up and did our part.”
PJP’s seniors include Maddie Lesinski, Taylor Roberto, Valerie Hull, Caitlin Gilinger, Sophia Bonanno, Madeline Mulcahey, Monroe, Madison Lewis, Sparano and Olivia Debald.
“Seasons are journeys. I felt like there was a lot of growth from a lot of people that will still be around while our seniors helped us out a lot. It was fun and it was challenging. (Entering the season) we didn’t lose many people so lots of people thought that (we’d be right back to where we were), but every year is different. It doesn’t matter how much you have coming back. But it was fun for sure; I learned a lot and I hope they did, too.”
Pope John Paul II’s Hanna Tulli (22) sends a kill past a pair of West York blockers during a PIAA 3A quarterfinal Saturday at Gov. Mifflin.
Pope John Paul II’s Caitlin Gilinger (7) hits down the line for a kill against West York during a PIAA 3A quarterfinal Saturday at Gov. Mifflin.