by Tom Utescher
The volleyball season came to an end last Tuesday afternoon for the Blue Devils of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, whose final match resulted in an 0-3 loss at top-seeded Academy of Notre Dame in the semifinal round of the Pa. Independent Schools Tournament.
The tourney had gotten underway the previous week with an overall field of just six teams. Notre Dame, the undefeated Inter-Ac League champion, received a bye initially, as did number two Agnes Irwin, which had tied for the runner-up spot in the Inter-Ac along with Germantown Academy.
SCH was seeded fourth, one spot behind GA.
The Blue Devils took a 3-0 decision over the five seed, Westtown School, in an opening round match in the Indy Schools tournament on November 7. In another first-round encounter, GA executed a 3-0 sweep of number six George School, then the Patriots succumbed to Irwin in the semifinals, 1-3.
For Springside Chestnut Hill, which had finished fourth in the Inter-Ac, the split in the postseason tournament produced a final overall record of 13-11 in the 2013 campaign. Two days after Notre Dame eliminated SCH last week, the Irish won the independent schools title with a 3-2 victory over Agnes Irwin.
In the opening game at Notre Dame on Tuesday, the Blue Devils derived early points from a kill by senior Courtney Hamilton and a block by junior Emily Chicchi, but a pair of services aces by outside hitter Alex Quigley, a Notre Dame senior, helped the hosts command an 8-2 lead a few minutes into the set. Chicchi put down a hit for a side-out and the visitors climbed back into contention, closing the gap to four points (13-9) with the help of scores by juniors Bridget McDermott and Kyra Jackson.
The tally seesawed up to 19-15, then Notre Dame ran off four of the next five points to attain a nearly unassailable lead of 23-16. The Devils fought for another four points before the Irish closed out the game at 25-20 with a hit by Quigley that glanced sideways off of an SCH block.
Notre Dame didn’t allow the visitors to hang around as long in the second game. With senior middle Colleen Donnelly growing more assertive in her hitting and blocking and Quigley continuing to score, the Inter-Ac champs quickly had the Devils down by 10 points, 13-3. SCH made up some ground, receiving a scoring pass and an ace from sophomore Marissa Pownall, but in the end the Irish wrapped things up at 25-13 to go up 2-0 in the match.
A new presence now began making her mark for the Irish at the net. This was Quigley’s younger sister, Shannon, who displayed good body control when off the floor, and a good head for where to place the ball. In game three, the home team made another strong start, forcing Springside Chestnut Hill to call time-out at 2-9.
After that, Notre Dame seemed to lose focus for a spell, committing errors that helped its rival recover. A kill by Pownall tightened the score to 9-14 in the middle of the game, but after that the Irish pulled away again to go up 22-14.
Jackson and McDermott scored on hits, and senior Jenna Moriarty picked up a point from a pass she made while levitating out past the sideline. The Irish chipped in with several balls they hit long or wide, and a three-game sweep for the home team was no longer a foregone conclusion as its advantage shrank to a single point, 23-22.
However, the Devils’ next serve sailed out over the baseline to bring up match point, which was delivered by ND’s big middle hitter, Donnelly. The Irish ended up with their sweep, but the Blue Devils had made a respectable showing against a squad that has dominated the private school volleyball scene this year.