ROYERSFORD — Garden Spot coach Lauren DiPiano is quick to point out that volleyball, like most other sports, is a game of momentum.
Playing in their first PIAA semifinal since 2008, her Spartans seized that momentum early by grabbing the opening set.
Southern Lehigh, however, stole it back in the middle stages of the second set, maintained it and rode it all the way to a 3-1 win over Garden Spot in Tuesday night's Class 3A girls volleyball state semifinal at Spring-Ford High School.
"I'm very proud of our girls," said DiPiano. "I feel like no one really expected us to be here. They've accomplished so much, which I think is a testament to their hard work and commitment."
ALTOONA — Hempfield traveled through mountains and snow squalls and bitter-cold temperatures to reach Altoona High School for Tuesday night's …
The loss marked the end of a history-making season for the Spartans. The Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Two champs made it to their first district final and reached the state semifinals for only the third time in school history.
"Being a senior, that's pretty rough," said Kelly Martin, the libero who had a team-high 30 digs. "I love that team. It's definitely hard. Overall, we had an amazing season. I couldn't ask for a better senior season."
Nor could she ask for a better start to the match as Garden Spot (20-4) claimed the opening set 25-21. Leading 16-15, Spot scored six of the next eight points to gain some separation.
"That was one of the best starts we've had this year," said DiPiano. "Usually, we kind of come out a little flat-footed. We served very well and they were out of system. They made a few more errors in that first set that we were able to exploit."
Spot held a slim 8-6 lead in the second set before Southern Lehigh (19-1), the District 11 champion, grabbed the aforementioned momentum by reeling off six straight points and 19 of the final 27 and won the set 25-16.
"I think in the first set we were playing clean ball," said Martin. "We were serving well and doing the things we're good at. In the second set, we kind of woke them up a little bit and they came out stronger and we couldn't handle it."
The third set began in disastrous fashion for Garden Spot as Southern Lehigh jumped to an 8-0 lead and coasted to a 25-12 win to take a 2-1 advantage in the match.
Trying to stay alive, GS was within striking distance in the fourth set, trailing 13-10. But Southern Lehigh got hot again, and at the end of another 6-0 stretch, the lead grew to 23-12.
Spot put up five late, unanswered points, but lost the set 25-18.
"They definitely scouted us," said DiPiano. "They could see our weaknesses and they exploited them. I felt like we were always chasing, or a step behind a little bit. I think a big part of that was them attacking us."
Logan Martin, a junior, led Garden Spot with 10 kills, while Olivia Usner, another senior, had seven.
Southern Lehigh advances to Saturday's championship match where it will face undefeated Palmyra, which also dropped the first set before winning three straight to beat Knoch 3-1 in Tuesday's other semifinal.