ROYERSFORD — The pressure was on the Spring-Ford volleyball team on Thursday night as it tried to win a second-round match in the District 1-AAA playoffs for the first time in team history.
That might have been part of the reason for the Rams' 18 errors in the first game against Mount St. Joseph and another sub-par performance in game No. 3.
But by the time the fifth and deciding game rolled around, the Rams had finally loosened up and were ready to play the way they had all through their long and successful season. The result was a 15-10 win, giving them a 3-2 decision (17-25, 25-18, 15-25, 25-19, 15-10) and a spot in Tuesday's quarterfinals, most likely at undefeated and top-seeded Upper Merion.
Catherine Burger led the offense for Spring-Ford (18-5) with 50 assists, Josie Swenson racked up 18 kills and seven blocks, Amanda Venuto had 35 digs and 27 service receives, Sammie Rowell added 11 kills and two blocks, and Cindy Nicholson contributed 10 kills and a block.
The Rams had played well in the fourth game that was finished up by a block by Swenson and carried that momentum into the final game.
"I think we could finally see that we were going to make history,' said Swenson. "If we were going to win the game, we were going to have to give it everything we've got ... don't leave with any regrets. We had a lot of adrenaline from the fourth game.'
"It got really loud in the gym and we played off the energy of the gym,' Burger added.
The Rams led by just a 3-2 score in the decisive game, but Jessica Cantello came on and served five straight points, including two kills by Swenson and another by Madden Sciubba — all off sets by Burger — and two mishits by the visitors.
Spring-Ford maintained the lead as Nicholson came up with a block and a kill and Swenson took a set from Burger and tipped it in over the defense to wrap up the win.
That came after the Rams trailed all the way in the first game due to their errors — including three on serves — and good hitting by the Mount's Moira Mulholland.
Then Spring-Ford, the eighth seed, lost an early lead and trailed by a 14-13 score in game No. 2, but took command with six straight points, including a block and kill each by Sciubba and Rowell.
Ninth-seeded Mount St. Joseph (14-6) went back on top by winning the third game as Mulholland knocked down the last three points. Then the Rams led the rest of the way in game No. 4 after taking an 11-10 margin on a kill by Cantello, setting up the do-or-die finale.
"I think we might have been a little timid (in the beginning), but we turned it around,' said Swenson. "We definitely flipped the switch. We gave it everything we had and it showed. We just played well as a team, and that's why we got the victory.'
"I think we came out a little nervous,' said Burger. "But I think we refocused and cut back on our errors.'
Spring-Ford coach Josh McNulty thought that his team started to hit the ball by the fourth game, in addition to reducing the number of mistakes.
"We had 18 kills in the fourth game,' he said. "That was twice as many as in the first three. We were a little lacking in the hitting. I told them they had to start putting the ball in play and keeping it inbounds.
"Jess Cantello ran five serves. Josie Swenson went in and she's my offensive powerhouse. She had a lot of pressure on the outside hitter. Josie made her hit over the block and Venuto made the saves. I'm very, very proud of these guys.'
The Rams now need one more win to make it to the PIAA Class AAA Tournament for the first time.
"We've got to do it the tough way,' said McNulty. "We've got to do it through the No. 1 seed.'
"I think no matter what the outcome, as long as we play our hardest, we'll be happy,' said Swenson. "We should play well against them.'