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Bishop Shanahan Eagles
Greg Ashman
220 Woodbine Road
Downingtown, Pennsylvania
  My Site News: Shanahan Guts Out First District Title  

Sunday, November 5
Shanahan Guts Out First District Title
By Denny Dyroff

ROYERSFORD – After two hours of heated, intense volleyball between two great teams, the District 1 Class AAA championship match between Bishop Shanahan and Villa Maria on Saturday evening came down to a two-point game.
        The Chester County rivals split the first two games and then were locked in a tie at 13 apiece in the final 15 point fifth game. Villa moved out to a one-point advantage but the Eagles responded with successive kills by Ali Huss, Kellie Conahan and Cayleigh Ashman to win the game, the match and the district title.
        Shanahan’s thrilling 3-2 victory at Spring-Ford High gave the program it’s first-ever district championship. The Eagles dropped the first two games – 15-25 and 18-25 – and faced the daunting task of winning three in a row against a program that was playing in its 13th consecutive district title match.
        Shanahan refused to fold and came back with a pair of wins – 25-16 and 26-24 – to force a truncated fifth game. The Eagles fell behind early and then again showed their mettle by erasing a six-point deficit. A block by Ashman knotted the score at 13-13 and then the Eagles clawed their way to a 16-14 decisive victory.
        “The first two games, we came out not nervous – not excited – just routine,” said Ashman. “Losing the first game was a wake-up call. Then, we finally got some energy.”
        Villa Maria played well right from the start. After winning the first two games, the Hurricanes appeared to be on their way to sweeping a team that swept them in a non-league match near the end of the regular season.
        “I think they underestimated us a little in the first two games,” said Villa Maria’s stellar junior setter Audrey Sheehan. “After realizing that we weren’t going to back down, they stepped up their game.”
        In the third game, a five-point service run by Courtney Smith propelled Shanahan to a 12-8 advantage. Villa closed to within two at 16-14 but the Eagles regained the serve and Conahan took over. The jump-serving junior delivered five straight points – with a pair of aces along the way – to put Shanahan in the driver’s seat at 22-14. A few plays later, a kill by Kristen Hughes ended the game.
        The fourth game had enough severe momentum shifts to keep the fans from both camps on the edge of their seats the entire time. At one point, Shanahan had things under control and a comfortable 18-11 lead.
        A standout service run by Villa’s Alyssa Pantalone reversed the momentum and pushed the ‘Canes ahead 19-18. The Eagles never wavered. Fueled by a few kills from Conahan, they drew even at 22-22 and went on to win 26-24.
        “After Villa came back to take the lead, I did get worried,” said Ashman. “I had faith that we could do it – but it was still a stomach-wrencher. It was our toughest match of the year.”
        Ashman’s father – and team coach – Greg Ashman agreed, “This was really tough. It showed a lot for our girls to lose the first two and then turn it around – and to come from behind in the fifth game like that. I have two words – Kayla Beck. She just played an amazing game for us tonight.”
        Both teams advance to the PIAA tournament with regional matches on Tuesday. Villa Maria (15-5) will play Central High, the District 12 champion, at 4 p.m. at Lincoln High School in Philadelphia. Shanahan (22-1) will face the third place team from District 3 at 7:30 p.m. at Spring-Ford.
        Saturday’s match was a great preparation for the state tournament for both teams.
        “This was the best effort they (his players) put out all season,” said Villa Maria coach Joe Boland. “The kids played a great match. There’s nothing to feel bad about.”

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