Note: This article originally published in The Reporter and on PaPrepLive.com
FRANCONIA >> A match between the No. 16 and 17 seeds in the first round of the District 1-AAAA playoffs can often be tilted within minutes. That swing went No. 17 Spring-Ford’s way.
The Rams scored the final four points of the first set to win it 26-24 and parlayed that momentum into a 3-0 sweep of Souderton Tuesday night.
“Thankfully we settled down toward the end and did what we had to do to take the first game,” Spring-Ford coach Josh McNulty said. “It was good to see them come and fight back through that.
Olivia Olsen finished the match with nine kills to lead Spring-Ford. Paige DeAlba pitched in eight kills for the Rams as well. DeAlba also led the visitors in assists with 15.
“Paige DeAlba always plays well,” McNulty said. “She’s been a rock all year long.”
In a first set that was back-and-forth the entire way, Spring-Ford (12-8) was able to claim it thanks to a run. The Rams took the final four points after being down 24-22 to get a 26-24 win. The run was the largest for either team in the set. Senior Jenna Plitnick was the one doing the serving for Spring-Ford when it mattered most.
In a tight set Souderton was plagued by carries and double-hits, which accounted for at least four Spring-Ford points in the opener.
The second had a different feel to it, as each team went on a sizeable run. Spring-Ford carried the momentum of winning set one into set two and started on an 11-3 run. Souderton immediately responded with a 9-3 run of its own, but the visitors scored the next four points to put out the fire and win set two, 25-19.
“Before we started the second game I told them, ‘We didn’t play our best volleyball. We need to go out and play the way we have all year,”’ McNulty said. “Then we go out to a 7-1 lead. It was good to see.”
To Souderton’s credit it fired back with a 9-3 run in the second set. The home team just never could get over the hump — they finish the season with a 13-8 record.
“It was a good season by our girls,” Souderton coach Dave Childs said. “The girls put a lot of work in to get to this point. It was good to see it pay off for them and get the playoff game.”
Tori Reiner served well for Souderton throughout the match and also finished with eight kills. Lauren Hamilton paced the home team with 18 assists. Talia Watson had 15 digs, and Miranda Baronett added 14 digs.
Olsen was prominent throughout the match for Spring-Ford, but particularly in the second set when she hammered home a kill to end any Souderton momentum.
“She’s been our best offensive weapon all year,” McNulty said about his sophomore. “When she’s feeling it she’s our go-to player. She can put the ball away.”
Spring-Ford never trailed in the second or third set of the match.
The third set belonged to Spring-Ford, which did a nice job closing out the match once they had the chance. The Rams again jumped out to a lead, this time 21-10, thanks to a 15-4 run in the middle of the set.
Up next for Spring-Ford is No. 1 Bishop Shanahan, who is undefeated on the season and one of the favorites to take home the 2016 PIAA state title.
“In the six years I’ve been here now we’ve never beaten them,” McNulty said about Shanahan. “We’re gonna have to be on our ‘A’ game.”
SPRING-FORD 3, SOUDERTON 0
Spring-Ford – 26 25 25
Souderton – 24 19 17
Souderton: Tori Reiner 8 kills; Lauren Hamilton 18 assists; Talia Watson 15 digs, Miranda Baronett 14 digs. Spring-Ford: Olivia Olsen 9 kills, Paige DeAlba 8 kills; DeAlba 15 assists; Grace Kraft 22 digs, Jenna Pitnick 19 digs.