Although everyone knows the hype that comes with the Friday night lights of high school football, Viking Superfans show up with just as much vigor and spirit for Thursday evenings in the gym to watch their volleyball team represent Upper Merion. Looking around the high school gym, the banner for girl’s volleyball immediately catches the eye, because while the others are mostly blank space, this one is covered with thirteen years of league championship wins. The program has been one of the most successful sports in Upper Merion history, and after their recent 3-0 win over their Frontier Division rivals, Pope John Paul, the girls look ready to contend for their first league title since moving the Pioneer Athletic Conference last year.
After a back and forth first set, the Vikings were able to edge out the Panthers 25-22 after back to back points from a spectacular block by junior Kelly Moore with sophomore Jillian Demcher and a kill by junior captain Tori Wright. Wright was a standout for Upper Merion all night, ending with a total of 20 kills, as well as 5 digs and 2 aces. Senior captain Emma Andraka also played a spectacular game both offensively and defensively, posting 11 kills, 10 digs, and 3 blocks. Her performance was crucial to the Upper Merion’s dominance in the second set as they kept Pope John Paul in the single digits, ending the set 25-8. The massive Superfan crowd, decked out in red, white, and blue, rallied behind the win and a student dressed in a pope costume stood at the top of the stands to bless the Vikings as they headed into the third set. The rising energy of the student section, who stood for the entirety of the final set, seemed to fuel Upper Merion as they took an early lead and maintained it to a score of 22-14. While the fans chanted “start the buses” from the sidelines, PJP was able to muster a final comeback, closing the set to 23-20. However, the Vikings regained their momentum and put the final two points away to sweep the Panthers three sets to none.
After the match, Tony Funsten, who has coached Upper Merion girl’s volleyball since it’s establishment 24 years ago, seemed pleased with his team’s commanding showing against what was expected to be a difficult opponent. “We have the exact same team as last year,” Funsten said of his stellar starting line up. “We’re a pretty cohesive unit. Pope John Paul graduated a lot of seniors last year, so I think what you saw today was a very experienced team defeat a less experienced team.” The Vikings’ confidence in each other on the court will be one of their greatest advantages as they continue on their quest for not just a league title, but a district championship. However Funsten has big goals for the girls and believes that they have the capability to progress beyond District 1 and be competitive within the state tournament. They are currently ranked 9th in Pennsylvania. It’s still early in the season and the team is looking like a force to be reckoned with this fall, so join that crowd of excited Superfans in the upcoming weeks as the Vikings try to maintain their current perfect record.