UPPER DUBLIN— It took a little longer to close out Sacred Heart than the Christopher Dock volleyball team would have liked, but playing two extra games was nothing considering the Pioneers five-year absence from the PIAA Class A playoffs.
The second sophomore Lanae Hunsberger's swing dropped between two diving defenders on the other side of the net, bedlam broke out on the Pioneers' side. They snapped Heart's three-year run as the District One Class A champions with a 3-2 (25-17, 25-18, 16-25, 19-25, 15-11) win at Upper Dublin Thursday night.
Hunsberger had four of her 18 kills in the shortened fifth match. Senior Jackie Teed tallied 10 kills, seven blocks and two aces in the championship-clinching performance.
"Our goal from the beginning was to win districts,' Teed said. "We wanted to be a challenge, we wanted to be out there and show our name. This feels amazing.'
Luckily, the Pioneers were no strangers to playing in decisive fifth games this season, just never with a district championship and state playoff berth on the line. Senior Ashley McGarrity landed two of her 12 kills to help push the lead to 11-8 and Sacred Heart had no comeback bullets left.
"We had a couple times this season where we won the first two and lost the next two,' Pioneers coach Trish Hoover said. "Unfortunately we have had our fair share of five games, but we have not lost any of them. They don't get too high or low in tense moments.'
The Pioneers were on the verge of a tidy sweep after winning the first two games 25-17 and 25-18, but the defending champs were not going to turn over their trophy that easily. Sacred Heart forced a fifth game with two wins in elimination matches.
"When we put ourselves in a hole we can dig ourselves out,' Teed said. "In the last game we think first five points, next five, and win it.'
The same emotion felt when the Pioneers made a miscue also fueled them to a win. Dock plays with passion and when it is combined with skill and experience, it leads to a gold-medal ceremony. The Pioneers next take the court Tuesday at Norristown (6 p.m.) against MaST Charter in the opening round of states.
"Emotion is good for us,' Hoover said. "Our energy and tempo gets going and other teams have a hard time with that. They absolutely know how to battle. It was sweeter against Sacred Heart. They were the better team last year and this has been in the back of the girl's mind all season.'
Follow Andrew Marcus on Twitter @amarcus515.