Upper Dublin is a team that has struggled to find consistency in the early going this season, and Friday's Suburban One Continental Conference matchup with Quakertown epitomized it. Some might say Upper Dublin should have won the match, most would say it could have won the match, but the end result was the Cardinals losing the match in five sets 26-28, 25-22, 25-23, 25-27 and 8-15.
The biggest problem for Upper Dublin was its inability to hold leads. In the first game the Cardinals held a 19-16 lead, which it ended up surrendering to the Panthers. The Cardinals fought back to hold game point in the first set with a 25-24 lead, but Quakertown rallied for a 28-26 win.
"They didn't give up, we fought the whole way, I'm proud of the guys for doing that,' Quakertown coach Andy Snyder said. "I'm not sure how we pulled it out, we looked pretty bad there in the middle of the match, but if we maintain the level that we played in the first game and then in the last game that's typical of us.'
Upper Dublin held as much as an eight-point advantage in the third set. Leading 15-7, the Panthers went on a 12-3 run to take a 19-18 lead. The Cardinals, however, regrouped to win the set. The difference in the game came in the fourth set. Upper Dublin got out to a red-hot start jumping out to an 8-0 lead. The lead eventually grew to a 17-7 advantage. Already leading the match two sets to one, victory looked almost certain for the Cardinals. The Panthers closed out the set with a 20-8 run, forcing a fifth and final set.
"It's simply just focusing on the ball,' Upper Dublin senior Justin Lee said of his team's mindset of protecting its big fourth set lead. "Just one good pass, one good set and one good hit. It's just the simple things, but today we just lost focus and we just couldn't get our minds straight and that's what lost us the game.'
With the dramatic comeback win the fourth set, Quakertown needed no comeback in the fifth as the Panthers used the momentum it built and ran away with the fifth set 15-8.
"We felt a lot of energy going into the fifth game,' Snyder said. "The guys realized their back was against the wall, they stood up and fought for it, and game five you saw what we're capable of doing.'
Another factor that went a long way to the Panthers' success was the play of Lucas Schan and Dylan Flor. The height of the two helped both of them rack up kills and affect Cardinals' shots. Upper Dublin is one of the smaller teams in the league and seemed to have trouble at times with the size of Schan and Flor.
"They were a huge pick-up for us today,' Snyder said. "Dylan had 28 kills. Lucas was all over the court. He's just so active out there, going after every ball and really helping get the guys motivated.
Lee doesn't see the lack of size being an issue for the Cardinals. They pretty much face the fact they will be the smaller team for the majority of their matches. Lee says everything depends on focus.
"Honestly I'm not too worried about big teams,' Lee said. "I think we're probably one of the smallest teams in the league, but I still think as a team we have a great defense. It just doesn't matter, if you know timing [and] precision, it's about focus.'