There wasn't a dry eye in the Delone Catholic Squirettes' postgame huddle after a 25-17, 25-22, 25-18 loss to Villa Maria Academy on Saturday.

Even coach Jason Leppo choked back tears as he addressed his team after its season-ending loss in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals.

When he finished speaking, his players continued to cry and hug each other for several more minutes as the realization set in that their season — and in the case of the seven seniors, their high school careers — and all the hard work they put in came to a crashing halt at the hands of the District 1 champions.

"Even if we would’ve won the state championship, it would’ve hurt just as bad," Delone Catholic senior Amber Johnson said. "Being a part of something great, I think a lot of us take it for granted, and when it’s not there anymore, it’s really a reality check because I’ll never play another match with this team. It’s really hard to take that it’s all over.”

Johnson led the Squirettes' attack with 12 kills from her middle hitter position. But Delone Catholic was undone by a stout Hurricanes defense — led by senior libero Lauren Miller — that seemed to get to almost every ball, even a few that seemed to sure to land.

“They played a great defensive match, a great floor game," Leppo said of Villa Maria Academy. "They’re one of those teams that when they get some of those touches, people will say, ‘Oh they got lucky.’ But it’s not luck, they put themselves in position.”

In addition to Johsnon, fellow senior Sarah Senft also had 12 kills. Senior setter Katie Laughman, who committed to Millersville earlier in the week, had 30 assists, and senior libero Lexi Shanabrook led the team with 16 digs.

It's the time Leppo spent with those four, as well as Lilly Singleton, Emily Welsh and Christina Photiades, that left him red-eyed and struggling to speak as he addressed his team after the game. He said this group has been at "the eye of the storm" as the Squirettes qualified for four straight state tournaments, including winning a state title in 2013.

“I’ve known these kids, some of them since they were this high," he said, holding his hand by his waist. "When you look at the landscape of youth sports, I think there’s a lot of people who coach for self-serving purposes, for wins and losses and records. One of the things I’m most proud of with us is that I’m so fortunate to work with a ton of great people. Those relationships you build, whether you’re winning a state championship or losing in the state quarterfinals, when you invest in each other, it’s always gonna hurt.”

PIAA Class AA quarterfinals

Villa Maria Academy def. Delone Catholic

25-17, 25-22, 25-18

at Hempfield High School

Delone Catholic stats – Amber Johnson (12 kills), Katie Laughman (1 kill, 30 assists, 1 ace, 9 digs), Sarah Senft (12 kills, 1 ace, 7 digs), Lexi Shanabrook (2 assists, 16 digs), Lilly Singleton (4 kills, 1 ace, 4 digs), Emily Welsh (1 ace), Sydney Dockins (5 kills, 1 dig), Karigen Emig (1 kill, 11 digs), Kayla Ewart (7 digs).

Villa Maria Academy stats – no stats provided.

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