WILLISTOWN — Scholastic sports teams frequently find it hard to get going in games that are played on a Monday because -- well, because it's a Monday. The same scenario holds true when teams have games on days when there are no classes.
When Villa Maria Academy hosted Merion Mercy Academy in one of the semifinals of the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies tournament, the Hurricanes faced a match on a Monday which was also a school holiday. They also faced a scrappy Merion Mercy team.
"Our start was a little slow today,' said Villa Maria's standout sophomore outside hitter Kaleigh Oates. "After the weekend off and no school today, we weren't as awake as we should have been. But, we pulled it together fast. Once we got our basics going -- pass, set, hit -- we were O.K.'
Once Villa Maria started playing Villa Maria volleyball, the results became predictable. The top-seeded Hurricanes had defeated the fourth-seeded Bears twice during the regular season and they put on a repeat performance Monday afternoon.VMA took the first set 25-17, followed with a 25-22 victory in the second set and closed with a 25-20 win.
"We were a little slow at first,' said Villa Maria's stellar senior libero Shae Murphy. "What helped was getting our passing together. We just had to stay steady. Most of it was just getting our energy into the game. Today, it didn't really take that long.'
Villa Maria coach Joe Boland said, "We played great in the first set. We were passing really well. The setters had all options open. With three hitters open, it didn't matter where they went with the pass.'
Merion Mercy may have only won one set while losing two matches to Villa during the season but they didn't allow themselves to be intimidated. They hung tough in the first set and took the second set down to the wire.
"Merion came to play,' said Murphy. "They played really well today. It was the best they played against us in three matches this year. Their defense was really solid.'
In the third set, the Bears jumped out to early leads of 4-0, 5-1, 6-2, 8-3 and 10-6. Then, Murphy delivered a five-point, two-ace service run that gave Villa a 12-10 advantage. The 'Canes got their first lead at 11-10 on a kill by hard-hitting senior middle Danielle Hillman.
"In the second set, we definitely settled in and did what we should be doing,' said Oates. "We came out a little slow in the third set. Then, we turned it on and picked each other up. It was basic volleyball -- nothing fancy.'
With the win, Villa Maria earned the right to host the championship match. The Hurricanes will face the winner of Monday's other semifinal between third-seeded Gwynedd-Mercy Academy and second-seeded Mount Saint Joseph's Academy.
All four teams will be headed to the District One playoffs -- the Mount to Class AAA and Villa, Gwynedd and Merion to Class AA. So, the Hurricanes could face the Bears again this season.
"Merion is tough,' said Boland, whose team is now 16-2. "They defend well and their outside hitters score some points.'
Villa Maria has the opportunity to avenge both losses -- and to win tournament titles while doing so. The 'Canes lost to Mount Saint Joe's in a regular-season AACA match and dropped a non-league match to Pope John Paul II -- a team they could meet in the District One Class AA championship match.