Upper Dublin — Sacred Heart's Meghan Cavanaugh hurt her foot recently. Or rather, she broke it in two places and will need surgery. Yet there she was in the starting lineup Thursday night in the Upper Dublin gym.
"The game was more important than my foot,' explained Cavanaugh.
Thursday marked the senior's and Sacred Heart's fourth consecutive District One Class A volleyball title game appearance. Though Cavanaugh fought through the pain on her way to a game high 35 digs, she and her top seeded Lions fell to second seed Christopher Dock in a thrilling five-game match.
Dock stormed out to an early lead as the match opened. They won the first four points on their way to a relatively easy 25-17 first-game win. The second wasn't much different. Dock again took an early lead and never gave it up. At one point they led 19-7 before they ultimately settled for a 25-18 win. Up 2-0, Dock looked to close out Sacred Heart.
Cavanaugh and company had other plans.
"We knew we weren't playing our game,' the senior captain said. "We had to come together. I think we did.'
With the aid of a lineup change, Lions coach Michelle Gatta moved Nicollette Paci to the middle and Emily Arriviello to the outside, Sacred Heart cruised to 25-16 game-three win.
"Nicollette Paci won us game three,' Gatta said.
The Lions' momentum carried over to game four. They led 7-4 in the early going. Dock, though, responded like the team that had been dominating the match. A back-and-forth affair ensued. The teams were tied at 10-10, 11-11, and 13-13. Sacred Heart eventually held a slim lead at 20-18. But Kerri Corcoran's kill, one of eight in the match, at 24-19 culminated a 5-1 run and a sterling comeback by Sacred Heart.
The match came down to a pivotal game five. With Dock ahead 8-7, Lanae Hunsberger, who finished with 18 kills to pace Dock, hit a seeing-eye shot that had her team celebrating a certain point. Seemingly out of nowhere, though, dove Cavanaugh, broken foot and all, for Sacred Heart. Her dig kept a rally alive that would end in the Lions favor.
In the end, 8-8 was as close as Sacred Heart got. Dock closed the game on a 7-3 run to win the district title. They were led by Hunsberger on the outside and Jackie Teed in the middle. Teed blocked a game high seven shots and contributed 10 kills. Kayla Dean added 40 assists.
Dock coach Trish Hoover explained her team's ability to thwart Sacred Heart's comeback bid.
"I hate to say it, but we've done it all season,' said Hooper. "We had games like tonight where we won the first two easily and then had to win a close fifth game. But this group never ever quits.'
Sacred Heart's loss ends their three-year stranglehold on District One.
"I wish I made the lineup change sooner,' said Gatta of her team's early struggles. "There were some nerves, certainly. I think they felt like they had to win as opposed to playing to win.'
The coach, though, had nothing but praise for her team's — and especially her seniors' — effort.
"They were amazing,' Gatta said. "Emily (Arriviello, who led the Lions with 10 kills) came up huge. Then Paci won us game three. They're true, true leaders.'
Cavanaugh's decorated career comes to end. She limps away without a fourth district title but still plenty of memories.
"We've had so much success. I've had so much fun,' said Cavanaugh. "We tried our best. We wanted to make people know who Sacred Heart is.'
It's safe to say she did just that.