It was already a long trip for Delone Catholic High's girls' volleyball team, so the Squirettes weren't going to waste any time, even if it was the District 3 Class AA semifinal match against Palmyra.
"We've kind of taken it one at a time all year, so there was no need to deviate from that now and start worrying about or thinking about what's next," Delone Catholic head coach Jason Leppo said Thursday night at West Lawn after his Squirettes swept Palmyra, 25-9, 25-16, 25-15, to advance to Saturday's 5 p.m. championship match against Berks Catholic at Dallastown.
Now the Squirettes will find a tall order, literally, waiting against the Saints, who hold a distinct height advantage, something evident in their 26-24, 27-25, 25-22 triumph over Brandywine Heights in Thursday's first semifinal match at Wilson High School.
However, after watching the Squirettes dismantle his Cougars' offense with powerful serves and unrelenting defense, Palmyra head coach Clark Sheaffer indicated fans who watch Saturday's final could be greatly entertained.
"It looks like those two middles (for Berks Catholic) are emotional," Sheaffer said. "If they get dug a couple of times, they could have frustration. I don't know if Delone will be on. It could swing either way."
That was not the case on Thursday, when the Squirettes allowed only a few brief moments of hope for the Cougars. After managing only a 1-1 tie in the first game, Palmyra held a lead as late as 4-3 in the second game before the Squirettes surged ahead, never to trail again.
"We want to be an aggressive serving team, and we know, at some point, we hope somebody's going to get a run," Leppo said. "It was pretty evident. There wasn't one server that created a whole lot of trouble. It was the consistent pressure of having to pass a hard-hit serve every time. Eventually, we hope to wear teams out."
Delone Catholic got a fast start from junior outside hitter Cambria Wierman, who produced six of her team-best nine kills in the first game. Her dink into the center of the Palmyra defense gave Delone a 4-3 lead, and the Squirettes never looked back from there.
The Squirettes posted an 18-7 lead, then senior MiKayla Strasbaugh entered the lineup. Delone scored five straight points and eventually won, 25-9, when Palmyra sent a spike wide on game point.
Palmyra got off to a better start in the second game. When the Cougars' Suzie Harris sent a spike through a double block, Palmyra took a 4-3 edge. The teams then battled to a 5-5 tie, but Delone's Maddy Greth used an overset by Palmyra to score a kill, launching Delone and server Hannah Lawrence on a five-point service run that put the Squirettes ahead to stay.
"She doesn't have bad nights. She either has a great night or a good night," Leppo said after Lawrence posted nine digs as well.
That element of her game impressed Sheaffer, who said, "She popped balls up and, OK, the setter was right there. We thought, 'Let's keep it away from the libero, but when we do hit, we can hit at her.' But she's very talented, very skilled."
Palmyra then posted its biggest threat, a four-point run late in the second game, to pull within 21-16 before Lawrence served out the game behind kills by Mary Gingrow and Maddie Comly.
Delone Catholic pulled away from another 1-1 deadlock in the third game to an eventual 20-9 edge before Lexi Redding served out the game, which ended when Palmyra sent a spike into the net, sealing a night when the Cougars had problems keeping their hardest hits between the lines.
"A team that disciplined, that runs that many balls down, can make you look bad, look frustrated," Sheaffer said of Delone.
While pleased with Thursday's win, Leppo said the opportunity to watch Berks Catholic's victory behind its large front line gave him a certain plan to prepare for the Squirettes' bid for a District 3 Class AA championship.
"We have to be a little bit more sound with our middles, where we have to be blocking-wise," Leppo said. "They (Berks Catholic) try to run a lot of middles (in their attack) and try to run it down your throat, so that's what we'll be working on a lot tomorrow."
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