The first round of the PIAA Class AA Tournament was the final stop for the Lansdale Catholic girls volleyball team the past two seasons. A third-straight early exit from state will not do for the Crusaders.
"It's really exciting because this year this spot has been our goal,' LC senior Chelsey Dutkiewicz said. "And we're finally here. All season, we have just been working for this game and we want to get past it and prove ourselves this year.'
Lansdale Catholic is one of five local teams beginning its PIAA volleyball, soccer or field hockey playoffs Tuesday. The Crusaders start states with a 4 p.m. matchup against District 3 runner-up York Suburban at the School of the Future in Philadelphia.
"We went out and scouted them on Saturday. So, the level of commitment to this team is not only did I go out and scout the team, but 10 of them made a 100-mile trip out to Dallastown, Pennsylvania,' Lansdale Catholic coach Joann Pisch said. "We got to watch York Suburban play Delone Catholic (in the District 3 final). And both of those teams are in the state tournament, so if we're going to achieve our goal of going far in the tournament, we're probably going to have to beat both of those teams.'
In Class A volleyball, District 1 champ Christopher Dock takes on fellow Bicentennial Athletic League member and District 12 champion MaST Charter 6 p.m. at Norristown.
Both the Lansdale Catholic boys and the Dock girls soccer teams are still in the hunt for state titles in their respective classes. LC is making its first PIAA appearance since 2000 after claiming the District 12-AA crown last Friday and opens PIAA play against three-time defending District 1 champ Holy Ghost Prep 5 p.m. at Council Rock North.
"We're really excited to play Ghost. We're a little beat up. The final of the (Philadelphia) Catholic League (vs. Father Judge), we got beat up. We got a guy (John Piccini) out with a broken foot and so forth like that. But the guys are confident, they're looking forward to playing this game.'
Dock girls won its third-straight District 1-A title and the Pioneers will begin states against District 12 champ Conwell-Egan, which ended Dock's PIAA run last year in the semifinals. These two meet this season 4 p.m. at the South Philadelphia Super Site.
In field hockey, Gwynedd Mercy is the lone local side left playing. The Monarchs grabbed third place in District 1-AA with a 2-1 win over Villa Maria last Friday, setting GMA up for a first-round contest against District 3 champ Palmyra for the second time in three years 7 p.m. at the Milton Hershey School in Hershey.
Lansdale Catholic girls volleyball retained both of its hardware it won in 2012, defending its PCL title with sweep of Archbishop Wood on Oct. 27, then completed the district three-peat by beating Masterman 3-0 last Friday. Now, the Crusaders look for a breakthrough in states after first-round losses to Brandywine Heights in 2011 and Berks Catholic last year.
"We feel really confident that if we just play the way we've playing this past month, that we're going to be fine,' Pisch said. "York Suburban is sort of the Cinderella team in the tournament. They came in and sort of upset a few teams and so, that's a dangerous team to play.
"But we just feel like if we play our game, we'll be able to match up with them.'
In the District 3-AA semifinals, York Suburban dropped the first two game to Palmyra and trailed 17-10 in third before rallying back for a 3-2 win (18-25, 19-25, 25-23, 25-20, 15-10) to secure it spot in states. The Trojans then fell to Delone Catholic 3-1 in the district final last Saturday.
"They're a really scrappy team,' said Dutkiewicz of York Suburban. "They're really good, high energy. And we just have to make sure we match that intensity and play our game we'll be fine.'
In Class A volleyball, Christopher Dock is back in states for the first time since 2009 — Dock reached the quarterfinals that season — after holding off three-time defending District One champ Sacred Heart 3-2 (25-17, 25-18, 16-25, 19-25, 15-11) in the district championship last Thursday at Upper Dublin.
The Pioneers' two BAL matches this season with MaST Charter — which beat Parkway Center City 3-0 for the District 12 title — both ended in three-game sweeps for Dock. MaST is in its third-straight state tournament, have fallen to Sacred Heart in the first round the last two years.
Lansdale Catholic boys soccer used wins over La Salle and Roman Catholic to reach its first PCL final since joining the league in 2008, but the Crusaders bid for a Catholic League title No. 1 was ended by Father Judge in a 3-1 loss last Tuesday at Archbishop Ryan. LC bounced back three days later in the District 12-AA championship, edging Franklin Towne Charter 2-1 on a goal with a minute left in regulation.
"It was little confidence booster,' said senior forward Michael Lewis of the District 12 final win. "I don't think we really played that well, but it still builds the confidence up.'
Lansdale Catholic's last trip to the PIAA tournament was in 2000 as the District 1-AA champ. The Crusaders advanced to the state semifinals before falling to Fleetwood.
Holy Ghost Prep, meanwhile, is making it third-consecutive appearance in the PIAA 2A field, winning the District 1 final 1-0 over Upper Moreland last Thursday at Council Rock North. The Firebirds have won state first-round contest the past two years — topping Conwell-Egan 5-0 in 2011, then besting Archbishop Wood 2-1 last season.
"We actually don't know that much, we kind of went over some stuff today. I know they're midfield's very good, so we got to control that,' said Lewis of Holy Ghost Prep.
Christopher Dock girls soccer has been moving one step closer to a Class A state title in even year since moving over to the fall in 2011. The Pioneers made the quarterfinals in '˜11 before losing to eventual champ Warrior Run. Last season, Dock reached the semis, where it was knocked out 2-1 by Conwell-Egan.
A shift in the this year's PIAA bracket — District Four gaining a third qualifier, bumping District Three's third-place side out — has the rematch between the Pioneers and Conwell-Egan's set for the opening round.
Dock needed overtime to secure a third-straight district crown last Wednesday, as Bailey Kratz's goal gave the Pioners the 3-2 win over Delco Christian. Conwell-Egan, meanwhile, claimed back-to-back District 12 championships by shutting out Science Leadership Academy 3-0 last Saturday.
Gwynedd Mercy Academy field hockey entered the District One Class AA tournament as the top seed, but the Monarchs were upset by Merion Mercy 2-1 in the semifinals last Tuesday. GMA bounced back to earn its second state appearance in three years with a 2-1 win over Villa Maria in the third-place game last Friday, setting up a matchup with Palmyra, which defeated Gwynedd Mercy 3-1 in the 2011 PIAA first round.
Palmyra has qualified for states in 13 of the past 14 seasons — winning the PIAA title in 2005 — with the Cougars claiming their seventh District Three title since 2001 thanks to 2-1 overtime victory over Oley Valley last Saturday.
Follow Mike Cabrey on Twitter @mpcabrey.