by Tom Utescher
Last Tuesday afternoon Germantown Academy stayed on track toward a runner-up finish in Inter-Ac League volleyball. Knocking off the visiting Baldwin School Bears in straight sets, the Patriots raised their record to 12-2 overall, and their 5-2 league mark has them behind league leader Academy of Notre Dame and ahead of third-place Agnes Irwin School.
After the Baldwin bout, GA had just one regular-season match remaining, facing a Springside Chestnut Hill team that is behind Baldwin in the league standings. Neither Episcopal Academy nor Penn Charter offer volleyball as an interscholastic sport.
Before Tuesday’s match, Germantown held a Senior Day ceremony to recognize the six members of the class of 2018: Emily and Sarah Lindgren, Najah Nasir, Gina Porter, Jenna Schumann and Alison Weber.
Back at the beginning of October, the Patriots had won their first match against Baldwin by a 3-1 score over in Bryn Mawr. Although GA did not give up a set in the recent rematch, the Bears proved pretty tenacious once again.
As the match opened, each team made a few little runs and then were tied up at 10-10. GA started to separate during a 5-1 stretch that included a kill by sophomore Caitlyn Priore, a scoring block and three errors by the Bears. Although Germantown made a number of service errors throughout the match, Baldwin usually returned the favor, so things evened out in this regard.
Baldwin did not fully recover from GA’s little surge in the middle of the first set, but the Bears did not collapse, either. GA secured the last side-out it would need with the score 23-19. A kill by Schumann brought up set point, and this was provided by Porter as she stuffed the ball down on the Bears from the middle of the net and a double hit was called on the visitors.
After that 25-19 win, the Patriots got themselves into a bind as the second set got underway. Head Coach Dan Sullivan was forced to call a time-out with his team trailing 3-9.
“That was a pretty deep hole to climb out of,” he noted. “I told them we needed an immediate side-out and then we needed to hold serve for a few points. If we could hold for three or four points, we’d be back in it.”
His players did more than that, pulling even at 11-11 and then adding two more points to force a Baldwin time-out.
The Bears found that they could not reverse the momentum in the set, as Germantown kept going to secure a 25-14 victory. The last two points came on Bear errors, a double-hit and then an attempted kill shot that zoomed far past the back line of the GA court.
The Patriots went up 5-2 in the third set, but the Baldwin closed the gap and the teams were tied at 7-7. After GA picked up another point on a side-out, Schumann presided at the service line for a 5-0 run, with most of the balls she served never coming back across the net.
This gave the hosts a 13-7 advantage, but the Bears stayed scrappy and actually went into the lead at 16-15.
“We didn’t play as consistently as I would’ve hoped,” GA’s Sullivan said, “but give credit to Baldwin. They have some length up front, and they make you work.”
The Patriots moved back ahead and were up 21-18 after the Bears coughed up a side-out with a serving error. Two more mistakes by Baldwin brought GA closer to its goal, and when a ball hit by Schumann struck a block and dropped down to the floor on the visitors’ side, match point was at hand.
GA’s Weber sent her next serve deep up the middle, and Baldwin couldn’t get a clean dig on the ball and was unable to return it. The 25-18 set wrapped up the victory for Germantown.
Schumann and Weber finished with nine and eight kills, respectively, and Porter had four kills and two blocks. Priore posted 23 assists, junior Shannon Topley turned in seven digs and freshman standout Natalie Schildt had five kills, three digs and a block.
The Patriots are seeded second for the six-team Pennsylvania Independent Schools tournament, and this Friday they will face the winner of a bout between Academy of the New Church and George School. Odds are that GA will move into the finals and will play Notre Dame, the team responsible for both of the team’s losses this season (1-3, 2-3).
“The main thing our team needs to do,” Sullivan said, “is come out and do all the little things correctly right from the beginning of the match.”