By John Knebels
DOWNINGTOWN – Julie Joyce remembered it like it was yesterday.
She and a host of then-Bishop Shanahan freshmen volleyball players were talking about their dreams and goals. Someone mentioned winning a state championship before they were through with high school, and they all agreed that they would make it a reality.
In the PIAA Class AAA final on Nov. 14 at Central York High School, Shanahan’s seniors – aided by several standout underclassmen – made good on their promise from three years ago. The Eagles defeated a thoroughly overmatched Allentown Central Catholic in three sets to capture the program’s first-ever state title.
“We thought we could definitely win one of these before we were done,” said Joyce, reminiscing about that innocent day, when her high school career wasn’t even a month old. “We kept getting better, and then, coming into this year, we felt confident that we had a really good shot.”
The only blemish on Shanahan’s resume was a grueling five-set loss to Merion Mercy Academy. Ironically, Merion was able to shake off a slow start this season and peak at the best possible time – arguably starting with that road victory over Shanahan on Oct. 14 – and also snare a state championship, that of the Class AA variety, the school’s third straight.
So care to take a guess what bothers some of Shanahan’s soon- to-be graduates?
“Losing to Merion still irks me,” said senior Emily Carlin. “It kills me. When I look at our 29-1 record, it’s hard to look away from that loss. It was such a good match and it came down to the final two points in the fifth set. They’re a great team and we are a great team. I wish we could play them again.”
Although the season was not perfect, Shanahan’s seniors Carlin, Joyce, Maria Ficca, Katie Pisano, Amanda Nickels, and Claire Keating can take great solace in realizing that they provided their school with a storybook campaign that will be extremely difficult to duplicate.
In addition to taking the Ches-Mont League crown for the sixth straight season, the Eagles also won the school’s second district title. Once they won the first round of states, all bets were off.
“We played our best games at the end,” said Carlin. “It was great. We didn’t win this by accident.”
The last point of the match – an ace by Pisano – set off human fireworks.
“We couldn’t help but jump all over the place,” said Joyce. “We went crazy. “
Several Eagles received tournament accolades after the final match. Carlin was named the tourney’s Most Valuable Player, Joyce was recognized as the defensive specialist MVP and Ficca joined her two teammates as a first-team, all-tournament selection.
Sandra Young, the school’s assistant athletic director, was thrilled to watch the Eagles make school history, more so because of the quality of inspaniduals that represented the team.
“They are truly women of virtue who love God, one another, Shanahan and volleyball,” Young said.
Tough to beat that.
John Knebels can be reached at email@example.com.
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103