Greg Ashman has been at the helm of the Bishop Shanahan girls’ volleyball program for the last 15 years.
His teams have won 12 Ches-Mont League titles, seven District 1 championships and a state title in 2009.
Though this year’s seniors fell just short of the school’s second state title, losing last month to North Allegheny in the PIAA Class 4A championship game for the second straight season, they will go down as one of the most accomplished groups Ashman has coached.
“We’re at a level that we’ve never been at before,” Ashman said. “I’m really proud of the girls for working as hard as they have over the last number of years to get there.”
During the last three seasons, Shanahan won three district titles, made three trips to the state semifinals and finished as the Class 4A runner-up twice.
Division I college-bound seniors Julia Thomas (Iona), Jules Gallagher (American), Alysa Wright (Bryant) and Michaela Devlin (Sacred Heart) guided the group along with junior Cara Shultz, another Division I recruit.
All five play club volleyball together for East Coast Power in King of Prussia and brought that experience against elite competition back to Shanahan.
“I think it helps to pull your other teammates who don’t know as much about that and to really be the leaders," said Gallagher, who is one of the team’s co-captains with Thomas.
Heading into their state playoff run, Shanahan had North Allegheny on its mind. With Shultz and two others injured last season, the Tigers swept the Eagles, 25-21, 25-12, and 25-16, in the 2017 title match.
After wins over Hempfield, Downingtown West, and Parkland, Shanahan set up a rematch on Nov. 17 for the 2018 title. North Allegheny cruised in the first set, but Shanahan pushed the Tigers to brink in the final two sets, losing by 25-15, 25-23 and 25-20.
“They beat us last year, so we wanted it really badly,” Thomas said. “We fell short, but we did have a good game. We had a very good season, so we have a lot to be proud of.”
The Eagles were given some extra time to reflect on their accomplishments when their bus broke down a few minutes from the high school on their trip home from the state championship at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg.
“We clearly weren’t supposed to go home right after,” Thomas said. “We needed more time to spend together as a team.”
“Looking back on it when I’m in college or even when I’m an adult, I’m really going to vividly remember these moments,” Gallagher said. “I think such as big reason, too, why we were all really upset after we lost, we were a lot more upset that it was over.”