Delone Catholic denied volleyball title
The near misses piled up.
Delone Catholic's Lilly Singleton struck a ball just wide, causing Delone Catholic coach Jason Leppo to wonder if it hit a Berks Catholic player's fingertips at the net, and he reacted by dropping down into a crouch.
Then Delone couldn't find a Berks Catholic mishit that popped up in the air and dropped to the floor in the middle of the Squirettes' front line. That turn of events lifted Berks Catholic to match point.
In the end, the Saints had just enough left to deny Delone Catholic a chance at forcing a Game 5 with a 3-1 victory (25-16, 25-16, 22-25, 25-22) in the District 3 Class AA girls' volleyball championship.
"We got close, just not quite enough tonight," Leppo said.
The win allowed undefeated Berks Catholic (19-0) to win back-to-back district championships. It also evened the four-year district playoff history matchup between the two schools. Delone (20-2) won the first two matchups (winning it the final and semifinal in 2012 and 2013), before Berks Catholic knocked off Delone in the final during each of the past two seasons.
Berks Catholic rallied behind 6-foot-2 Division I basketball James Madison University recruit Devon Merritt. She had a match-high 23 kills, with seven blocks, three aces and seven digs.
"She's special, she's special, you can't teach that size and athleticism," Leppo said.
Berks Catholic won Game 1 after putting together a 9-1 run. Then in Game 2, it shrugged off eight ties before a 7-3 run put them in front for good.
Delone Catholic's Sarah Senft, who is still narrowing down her college choices, dominated in Game 3 to help the Squirettes force a fourth game.
"We came out to a slow start, and it seemed like we couldn't do anything right," Senft said.
"But then we started to play well, and we started to play faster."
But after falling behind by five points in Game 4, Delone crept back into contention. Delone Catholic closed to 21-20, but Berks Catholic won four of the next six points to earn the win.
"We've played them a bunch of times before, including in the same game last year," Merritt said. "So it was really exciting to be here with them again. We knew we had to pick up the things we were lacking, like service receive and blocking, which we did pretty well tonight, which helped us win.
"We were struggling in the third and fourth game to get the lead and keep it, especially in the third game where we couldn't even get (the lead). So it was really good we kept up our energy and played through it."
Berks Catholic 3, Delone Catholic 1
25-16, 25-16, 22-25, 25-22
Delone Catholic stats — Sarah Senft (15 kills, 15 digs, 2 blocks, 2 assists), Amber Johnson (9 kills, 1 block, 1 dig), Lilly Singleton (9 kills, 1 ace, 6 digs, 1 block), Karigen Emig (3 kills, 10 digs), Katie Laughman (40 assists, 2 kills, 2 aces, 6 digs), Lexi Shanabrook (17 digs).
Berks Catholic stats — Devon Merritt (23 kills, 7 digs, 7 blocks, 3 aces), Olivia Zdradzinski (6 kills, 3 digs), Olivia Blankenbiller (43 assists, 10 digs, 3 blocks, 3 kills), Lexi Leddy (4 digs, 3 aces), Caitlin Crespo (9 kills, 17 digs), Annika Hemdal (9 kills, 3 digs, 1 block).