Bears beat PAC champion PJP
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.”
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).
Boyertown’s Emily Wolfe (19) tips the ball over the net against Pope John Paul II.