WEST CHESTER — The Sun Valley volleyball team proved it deserved to be in the quarterfinals with a hard-fought 31-29 win in its first game against West Chester Henderson Tuesday night.
That success was short-lived, though, as the No. 13 Vanguards showed their youth and dropped the next three games to the fifth-seeded Warriors, 25-9, 25-19 and 25-10, for a 3-1 loss. Henderson will play top-seeded Upper Merion in the District One Class AAA tournament semifinals.
Senior blocker/setter Chelsea Jones finished with 16 kills and 19 aces in her final game in a Vanguard uniform. Hailey Adler led the Warrior offense with 21 kills and three aces, while Sarah Tunnell added five aces and a game-high 39 assists. Victoria Dennis added 21 digs.
It was a quick transition from underdogs taking over to favorites controlling the match as soon as the second game started. Despite Sun Valley (13-8) never trailing by more than three points in the first game and jumping out to a 3-1 lead in the second, the Warriors (19-4) started to roll and never looked back after taking a 4-3 lead.
Sun Valley coach Ernie Colantonio said he felt the pressure got to his team a little bit.
"That's a good team out there, we played them during the season and I knew the kind of game we were going to come up against,' he said. "When you play a team like that and you get behind, we gave them the momentum right back and I think at that point we couldn't pick it back up again.'
The other change was the way the Warriors attacked the Vanguards. Sun Valley's offense flows through Jones and junior Madison McCunney, and while both were a crucial part of winning that first game they were limited throughout the rest of the match.
"They have those two good hitters (Jones and McCunney), we just tried to shut them down,' Adler said. "... That was our goal, make the other players on the court work.'
"When teams pick up on that, it's really frustrating because we're the two go-to (players),' Jones said. "But the team for next year needs to learn how to move the ball around and use other players, other people just have to step up next year.'
It's disappointing for any team to fall short of a state tournament berth as the Vanguards did with their loss Tuesday, but making the quarterfinals for the first time was a big step for Sun Valley. It wasn't just the volleyball team celebrating its achievements either, as the fan support for the Vanguards easily outnumbered Henderson's two-to-one and let their chants be heard all throughout the game.
"Sun Valley, we're a small school, we've never gotten that far,' Conlantonio said. "I'll talk to the girls on the bus, tell them how proud I am that we got that far.'
The Vanguards will return most of their players, losing only two seniors but important ones at that in Jones and libero Mallorie Estock. Jones said she achieved her senior-year goal of defeating Strath Haven, but is disappointed about being so close to a state tournament appearance.
"I would have liked to see us get that berth at states but you win some, you lose some,' Jones said. "Tonight just wasn't our night, they had more heart than us tonight.'