SOUDERTON — The bigger the points, the more Lansdale Catholic wanted them in Saturday afternoon's PIAA-AA volleyball quarterfinal against Pope John Paul II.
That was especially true in the fourth game as the Crusaders came from behind to wrap up a 3-1 win and a spot in Tuesday's semifinal round by scores of 25-20, 25-22, 21-25, and 25-23 at Souderton High School.
Lansdale Catholic will play next at a time and place to be determined against Delone Catholic, a 3-1 winner over Holy Redeemer.
Brynne Taylor led Lansdale Catholic (23-1) with 13 kills — some of them through and over triple blocks — and had plenty of help on the front line from Chelsey Dutkiewicz (11 kills), and Alicia Kradzinski (9 kills). Kaitlyn Kushman added four kills, 37 assists, and 14 digs for the winners. Morgan Shemonski racked up 14 kills and Geena Bevenour had 33 assists for the Golden Panthers (17-2), who advanced to the semifinals last season.
"We had really great energy and communication the entire match,' said 6-foot senior Taylor, who did most of her damage from the middle of the front line. "We just knew we had to put the ball away. We just knew we had to rally together some points.'
And that's what the Crusaders did throughout the afternoon as they ran off six points in a row to take a commanding 20-13 advantage in the first game and scored four in a row to break a 12-12 tie in the second.
But the most critical rally, though certainly not the longest, came with LC down by a 20-19 score in the fourth game.
Kerry Duggan tied it with a block and Taylor drilled one into the corner for a 21-20 edge. The Panthers hit long on kill attempts on two of the next three points wrapped around a tip into the middle of the defense by Shemonski.
Then Kradzinski pushed one down into the middle of the defense for a 24-21 lead that set up three possible match points. The Crusaders needed all of them when they lost a point on a service error and Shemonski picked up a kill off an assist from Bevenour.
But Taylor knocked one off a block to wrap up the win and set off the celebration for the Crusaders, who had lost in the first round of state play in each of the last two years.
"I'm so excited,' said Taylor. "It feels amazing to get past the first round.'
"We were hungry for this win,' said LC coach Joann Pisch, whose Philadelphia Catholic League and District 12 champions had tied and beaten PJP in tournaments and lost 3-1 on the Golden Panthers' home court in a regular season non-league match in early October. "The team that wanted it most would win. They had a lot that they came at us with. We're so proud of this win.'
Pope John Paul coach Ryan Sell thought that serving was a key to the outcome.
"They played good,' he said concerning the Crusaders. "Lansdale Catholic came to play today. We had a tough time in service receiving. That didn't help us. I'm not going to take anything away from them. They served us really tough.'
The day began as it ended, with a kill by Taylor, and the Crusaders quickly built a 10-4 lead and led all the way even after PJP cut the deficit to 14-13. An emphatic kill by Taylor and a tip by Kradzinski made it 16-13 and it was quickly 20-13 after a couple of unforced errors by PJP and a block by Taylor.
The second game was tied at 12-12 after the Panthers led early and LC won four points in a row before PJP rallied and tied it at 18-18 on a block by Tori Cruciani. But a service error by the Panthers, a two-handed dunk by Chase Wassel, and a kill by Duggan sparked the Crusaders to the win and a 2-0 lead in games.
Then Pioneer Athletic Conference and District 1 champion PJP went on an 8-1 run to break open a 12-11 lead in the third game as Shemonski contributed three kills and Grace Dawson picked up an ace.
But LC came through with the points when it counted in the hard-fought fourth game and Taylor continued to score despite double and triple blocking by the Panthers.
"We have offense pin to pin,' she said. "If one person is off, we can spread it around.'
"They were triple blocking her,' said Pisch. "Kerry (Duggan) had an off-night tonight, but she had that big block. I give her a lot of credit. It's a shame these two teams had to meet in the quarterfinals. This could have been a championship match.'
Dutkiewicz had 25 digs and Kradzinski added 24 and Wassel and Taylor each picked up four solo blocks. ... Nicole Dorman had 11 kills and Kelly Tornetta had seven for PJP, which also got 12 digs from Kelly Peyton and four aces and 10 service points from Dawson. ... Last year Delone won a 3-2 match over PJP in the semifinals and lost to Fort LeBoeuf for the championship.