Junior Nicole Uzzo leans into a pass from the middle of the Mount court. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Mount St. Joseph and Gwynedd Mercy each came into last Thursday’s league volleyball match with a 4-1 record in the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies. The Mount Magic had lost a five-set contest on the road to league leader Villa Maria a week earlier. Gwynedd had not yet faced Villa, and the only blemish in its AACA ledger was a 2-3 setback against Sacred Heart Academy.

Mount St. Joe became the team that achieved a fifth league victory last week, taking the first, third and fourth sets against the visiting Monarchs to prevail, 3-1.

In the opening set, the teams looked like they were still warming up. The skill level and intensity usually seen in an AACA volleyball bout wasn’t on display here. Though far from brilliant, the Mounties got a leg up in the match with a 25-9 victory.

The Magic got out to a 4-1 lead and then were up 13-4 later on. They never let the Monarchs back in it, and chalked up set point with a successful block at the middle of the net by senior Katie Tausz and sophomore Olivia Esposito.

They had been part of the Mount’s initial seven-player rotation along with senior Maggie Fitzpatrick, juniors Vivianna Carrasco, Allie McKnight and Nicole Uzzo and freshman Daphne Mond. Fitzpatrick, the libero, is a team co-captain along with senior Olivia Nace. Nace and fellow 12th graders Shannon Reilly and Kelly Rothenberg saw a good deal of action in the match later on.

Both teams raised their caliber of play in the second set, especially Gwynedd. The Magic jumped out early again, gaining a 4-2 advantage, but Gwynedd quickly countered this time, pulling even at 5-5 with a true service ace down the right sideline by Shannon McCarthy.

After a 9-9 tie later on, the Monarchs began to take control with an 8-1 run that made it 17-10. GMA’s McKenzie Humphrey was effective at the net in the middle, and Katie Denitz showed an ability to deliver kills from farther back on the court.

Mount senior Kelly Rothenberg (right) tries to hit the ball past a Gwynedd Mercy block. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

The Mount called timeout with a six-point deficit (21-15), then rallied back within three of the leaders at 23-20. Gwynedd won the next point to reach the brink of victory, but the Magic then closed up the score to 24-22. The set ended when the next Mount serve sent the ball just beyond the baseline.

The Mount continued to make strong starts in each set, stepping out 5-1 in the third. Gwynedd trimmed the lead to two points at 11-9, then a 5-0 Mount run began with a block by Tausz and Carrasco. Kills by Tausz and Esposito also made up part of this MSJ advance.

The home team stayed a few steps ahead, but the Monarchs didn’t fade away, still hoping for a late rally when the tally reached 23-20. Next, the visitors made a good save on a Mount hit, but their second touch was an uncontrolled pass that sent the ball out over the sideline. This brought up set point, which came when Reilly came up with a service ace as Gwynedd let the ball fall just inside the baseline in the middle.

The Mounties now had a 2-1 edge in the match score, but Gwynedd fought hard to avoid elimination in the fourth frame. The Monarchs got off to a good start for the first time, moving ahead 5-1 with hits by Humphrey and Denitz. Mount St. Joe fought back as Mond recorded a number of successful hits and blocks.

The Magic drew even at 6-6 and the score seesawed up to 15-all, then Gwynedd led one last time at 16-15. A 7-3 surge for the Magic that included three kills by Carrasco had the hosts ahead 22-19 when GMA called a timeout.

The count climbed to 24-21 as Gwynedd got kills from Marykate Donahue and Denitz, while the Mount scored on a hit and a tip by Esposito. On the next sequence, what would have been a third hit on the Gwynedd side of the court was botched when two Monarchs collided. Match point went to the Magic.