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  My Site News: Shanahan falls in five-set showdown  

Thursday, October 15
Shanahan falls in five-set showdown

DOWNINGTOWN — The epic volleyball showdown between Merion Mercy Academy and host Bishop Shanahan Wednesday night pitted the top-ranked Class AA team in the state (Mercy) against a team that is ranked second in the state in the Class AAA poll.

The match was everything everyone expected - and more. The five-game marathon, which was an all-out war, was easily the "Match of the Year" and maybe even the best area match in the last decade.

The non-league battle of friendly rivals, which Merion won 3-2 (20-25, 26-24, 25-20, 26-28, 15-12), featured a wealth of talent, a mega-dose of intensity and a level of talent usually found only in state semifinal or final matches.

"What a match - probably the best match I've ever been involved in as a coach," said Mercy's veteran coach Rich Johnson. "It was up-and-down and back-and-forth with both teams never giving up. In the fourth game, we had four match points and couldn't put it away. They blocked our best blockers. Both of these teams should go far in states."

The competition, which was the centerpiece of Shanahan's Dig Pink 2009 breast cancer benefit evening, also featured one of the best individual performances by an area player in maybe a decade.

Shanahan's Emily Carlin had been a force throughout the first three games and well into the fourth. In the closing stages of the fourth game with her team trailing 2-1 in games, she took it to a whole other level.

The Bears had a 24-21 lead with Kalen Backe serving for match point, A point on a block by Carlin kept the Eagles alive. Then, Shanahan knotted the score at 24-24 on a kill and another block by Carlin.

Merion Mercy regained the serve. But, instead of getting match point, the Bears got victimized by another Carlin kill. A bit of déejé'vu was next as the Bears got the serve back only to have the Eagles answer with a kill by Carlin.

With the score tied at 26-26, the Eagles took the lead on a point that started with a Carlin serve and ended with a kill by Susan Frick. The next play followed the exact same script and sent the match into a fifth game.

"I told myself - we're not going to lose this game - that we were at least going to five," said Carlin. "We could have used some recovery time before the fifth game. We came out and gave them five points. You can't do that in a 15-point game. That's one-third of the points."

The Eagles fell behind 7-1 in the fifth game and appeared headed for a quick exit. With fierce determination, they fought their way back. They closed to within one point at 13-12 but a pair of kills by the Bears brought the match to an end.

"I don't look at this as a loss," said Shanahan coach Greg Ashman, whose team is now 12-1. "I'm real happy with us being able to play at this level - especially after being off five days. With Shanahan closing because of the flu, we haven't had a practice since a week ago Monday."


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