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St. Anthony's girls claim state volleyball title

St. Anthony's Kristen Castellano returns a ball as

St. Anthony's Kristen Castellano returns a ball as St. Mary's defender Stephanie Simmeth looks for the block during the CHSAA girls volleyball final. (November 15, 2009) Photo Credit: Frank Koester

After the championship medals had been distributed and the team plaque was in hand, a St. Anthony's girls volleyball player shouted, "What now?"

"We clean up!" coach Donna Newman retorted.

And celebrate a little, too. The host Friars won their first CHSAA state title since 2002 and second ever with a 25-21, 25-13, 24-26, 21-25, 25-21 win over St. Mary's of Lancaster Sunday afternoon. St. Anthony's completed the season 25-2.

"We couldn't ask for anything else," said Caitlin Connelly, one of two seniors on the team. "It's a huge accomplishment."

Connelly led St. Anthony's with 22 kills and 17 digs, Michele Impellizzeri had 14 kills and 12 blocks, and Kerrin Mauer 30 digs.

Connelly's most important dig came on the final play of the game, as she kept the play alive and St. Mary's return attempt hit the net.

Connelly, the CHSAA Player of the Year, said: "I've never been the strongest passer, but defense is what wins you matches."

So does the type of comeback the Friars had in Game 5. After losing the first five points, St. Anthony's tied the game at 9. It was tied again at 13, but a Connelly kill punctuated a four-point rally that made it 17-13. St. Mary's closed to within a point at 20-19, but Connelly (who else?) had a kill out of a St. Anthony's timeout to make it 21-19 and the Friars never trailed again.

"It was a roller-coaster ride," Newman said. "We just told the girls, 'settle down, the points will come.' "

In Saturday's pool play portion of the tournament, the Friars cruised past St. Mary's in two straight games. That trend continued in the first two games Sunday, especially in Game 2 when the Friars won 10 of the first 11 points.

"We got a little ahead of ourselves," Connelly said. "I think we underestimated them."

St. Mary's defeated St. Anthony's in last year's title game, so revenge was on the Friars' mind. And they attained it in exciting fashion. "We had three goals before the season started, win the [CHSAA] regular-season title, the [CHSAA] league title and the state title," Newman said. "We accomplished all three."

St. Anthony's advanced to the final with a 25-22, 25-20, 25-13 win over Immaculata. Connelly led the team with 11 kills, Impellizzeri had nine kills and nine blocks and Kristen Castellano had 10 kills.

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