Three SOL volleyball teams advanced to Tuesday’s quarterfinal round. To view photos of the CB West/CR North match, please visit the Photo Gallery.
#7 COUNCIL ROCK NORTH 3, #10 CENTRAL BUCKS WEST 2 (13-25, 25-22, 25-27, 25-21, 16-14)
One minute their season was hanging in the balance, the next, the Indians were celebrating a heart-stopping win.
“I have so much adrenaline going through me right now,” senior captain Lauren Blachowski said. “I don’t remember anything.”
After falling behind 7-4 early in the fifth set after an Elena Flynn block, the Bucks rallied to take leads of 10-9, 11-10, 13-12, and 14-13. Each time, the Indians had the answer, winning the riveting match when Blachowski delivered a line kill to close it out.
“We really were focused on not letting our season end tonight,” sophomore setter Krista Campbell said. “We were so determined to come out on top.”
Flynn led the Indians with 14 kills while Blachowski added 11. Rachel McLaughlin-McManis added 10 kills and sophomore Haley Burns had nine. Defensively, Blachowski and Erin Stewart each had 30 digs while Campbell had 26.
For the Bucks, Alicia West contributed 18 kills, 13 digs and one ace while Rachel Baker added 17 kills, three aces and seven digs. Maddie Klun had eight kills and two aces, and Courtney King had six kills and 12 digs. Setter Jess West had 49 assists, two kills and two digs, and Rachel Farnin had 28 digs and two aces.
“It was a really close game,” Baker said. “Either team could have won. We played so hard today.
“We really play as a team. We don’t play individually. This is one of the first times in years that everyone loves each other. We work so well as a team together. It’s sad to see it end, but that was a good game to walk away from. We played our hearts out.”
The Bucks owned the first set, turning a 13-10 lead into a 25-13 win. Alicia West closed it out with a well-placed kill, and while the Bucks were finding the open spaces on the court, the Indians were troubling to finish off points against the feisty Bucks.
“It’s frustrating,” Blachowski said. “We were getting so frustrated because they were just picking up everything.
“It was hard to adjust because we’re not used to teams playing it to all the different spots. It was really hard to read, but we were working together as a team and trying to pick it up.”
In the second set, the Indians appeared to solve the mystery of the Bucks’ offensive strategy, opening up a 22-17 lead after a McLaughlin-McManis kill and going on to earn the 25-22 win.
The Indians appeared to be in command when they opened up a 23-18 lead in the third set after a back row kill by Jessica Charlton, but the Bucks came roaring back. First it was Baker delivering a winner, and then Klun stepped to the line and delivered an ace. The Indians had the upper hand after a West serving error made it a 24-22 game, but another Baker kill pulled the Bucks to within one, and the score was deadlocked after a Baker kill.
The Indians led 25-24 after a Burns winner, but the Bucks once again had an answer. They went on top 26-25 after a Baker service ace and won it on an Alicia West kill.
“We just tried to be positive and look forward to the next game,” Blachowski said of her team’s approach after the disappointing loss.
The Indians found themselves staring at a 13-10 deficit in the fourth game but rallied to go on top 16-15 after a Charlton kill. The Indians took a lead (19-18) they would not lose when a West hit sailed out of play. They won it on a McLaughlin-McManis kill.
“We practice to try to dig up tips and roll shots and things of that nature, but most of the teams we face don’t do that all the time,” Lynch said. “They really didn’t have aggressive swings consistently, but they really had smart shots the entire match. It was uncharacteristic of some of the teams we’ve faced so far this season, and I think we had a difficult time adjusting.
“By the third game, we were finally able to put it together. We made a couple switches with our lineup, and it made a huge difference.”
The fifth set was a nail biter, and with the Indians trailing 12-11 after an Alicia West winner, Lynch called a hasty timeout.
“I told them in the timeout, ‘Everything you guys have worked for in the offseason, everything we have done during the season – lifting weights, doing conditioning, working hard during drills, pushing each other during practice and going to those difficult tournaments, it all comes down to this moment,’” Lynch said. “I told them if they wanted to win they had to earn the sideout.
“Literally, their eyes got big, and they realized, ‘Hey, if we don’t win this game, our season is over.’ I think it really struck a chord with them. They knew they had to dig deep and fight for every single point. CB West was playing tremendously on defense.”
The Indians came out of the timeout and knotted the score on a West passing error. They gave that point back on the net serve but rallied for the emotional win.
Exactly how did it feel to win?
“Amazing,” Blachowski said. “Unreal. Overwhelming, but I’m so excited for the next game.”
The Indians will face second-seeded Upper Merion in Tuesday’s quarterfinal.
For the Bucks (15-3), Thursday’s loss marked the end of a historic season that saw their squad capture its first SOL title since 1999. A key to the team’s success, according to their coach, just might have been the team’s camaraderie.
“You know what, it comes down to the fact that they love each other really,” coach Todd Miller said. “They love each other so much that they’re willing to push each other outside of their comfort zone and work even harder.
“They never give up on each other, they never give in. They always work hard, and that’s an amazing thing. You don’t see that enough nowadays in sports in general. We came so close tonight, so close.”
#8 PENNSBURY 3, #9 SUN VALLEY 0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-23)
The seeding suggested this match would be close, and for the better part of three sets, it was, but when push came to shove down the stretch, the Falcons were – in a word – unbeatable.
“We struggled with closing games out this year,” senior Kate Webb said. “Finally, we just were able to get so much energy at the end of the game and just push every single point.”
Webb, the Falcons’ libero, personified that energy with her hustle all over the court.
“Kate Webb took over,” coach Michael Falter said. “She even came to me at one point after she went across the entire court to get a ball and said, ‘Should I not do that?’ I said, ‘No, you see the ball, you go get the ball.’ She was all over the place tonight.”
Webb had seven digs as did teammate Cara Reilly. Paige Misawic led the Falcons with nine digs to go along with 25 assists. Reilly led a strong Falcon service game with seven aces in addition to four kills. Jae Jackson, Sarah Sweetland and Taylor McCartney each had eight kills.
“At a couple of practices, we worked on spreading the offense around a little more,” Falter said. “I looked at the stats, and in certain rotations, certain players would get the ball way too much, so we worked on being balanced because we have the girls that we can be balanced. I feel 100 percent confident that any girl we set will put the ball down.”
The first set featured seven ties by the time the score was 8-8, and although the Falcons went on top 12-8 after Reilly served up three consecutive aces, the Vanguards hung tough, battling back to knot the score 20-20. The Falcons closed it out with a 5-0 run that culminated with back-to-back Webb aces.
The Falcons maintained a one or two-point lead throughout much of the second set, but the Vanguards knotted the score 17-17. A Sweetland kill sparked an 8-3 Falcon run to close out the game with Jackson delivering a kill for game point.
It looked as though the sweep might not happen when the Vanguards battled back from an early deficit to go on top 23-20 after the Falcons were whistled for a carry. A Sun Valley net serve made it a two-point game, and then McCartney delivered a kill after a long volley to pull the Falcons to within one. A Sun Valley hit out of play knotted the score, and the Falcons won it after McCartney and Jackson delivered back-to-back winners.
“That’s the difference from the beginning of the season – we’re finishing games,” Jackson said. “Before we would give the other team the second or third game, but now we’re just closing it out.”
The impressive win propels the Falcons into Tuesday’s quarterfinal round where they will face top-seeded Bishop Shanahan.
#2 UPPER MERION 3, #15 WILLIAM TENNENT 0 (25-17, 25-12, 25-21)
Senior Casey Griffith had a monster night for the Vikings, serving for 22 points in three games while also delivering 16 kills, five aces, 10 digs, two assists and – for good measure – one block.
“Casey Griffith just had a ridiculously good match,” coach Tony Funsten said. “She had some of everything. She only had one hitting error – she was near perfect.”
Teammate Melanie Ingram had 10 kills and 10 digs, and sophomore middle Eryn Brady had five kills and helped neutralize Tennent middle hitter MJ Alanis.
“She had a really nice match,” Funsten said. “She controlled Alanis very nicely, and, therefore, we had control of the match.
“Nikki Carpenter was matched up with (Alanis) most of the time, and she did a good job of getting touches and forcing her to change her shot.”
For the Panthers, sophomore Jaime Bonner had eight kills and three aces while Alanis had six kills. Chelsea Gallagher had five kills and 13 digs, and CC Weir had 20 digs.
“We fought hard, especially out of the gates, and in sets one and three we were right there,” Tennent coach Brian Bassler said. “Our girls hung in there and played tough.
“I give a lot of credit to our seniors for getting us here, and we have a lot of players returning, players that are really good now. If they work hard, the sky is the limit.
“I’m extremely proud of everything this team has accomplished.”
The Vikings, according to Funsten, may have been a bit nervous at the start of the match after a first round bye.
“It looked like we were afraid to make mistakes, so we made them,” he said. “We called a timeout, and we settled down and caught them and ran by them.
“The second game we played very consistently and didn’t give them a chance to get ahead.”
In the third set, the Panthers opened up a 17-10 lead.
“We had three hitting errors and a couple of passing errors that helped them along the way,” Funsten said.
Griffith went to the service line with the Vikings trailing 17-11. When she left, they were on top 22-17. Two
Tennent timeouts could not slow Griffith down.
“She caught them off balance,” said Funsten, whose team went on to earn the win. “You never know in volleyball if they win that game how it goes.
“They’re dangerous because they’re tall and put pressure on you with their tipping. If you get nervous and start messing up, you could end up losing. It was good that Casey went on that run.”
The Vikings will host Council Rock North in a quarterfinal game on Tuesday while the Panthers closed out their season with a 14-5 record.
#3 GARNET VALLEY 3, #14 NORTH PENN 2
The Maidens gave the third-seeded Jaguars all they could handle, opening up a 2-0 lead before falling in five. The Maidens closed out their season with a 14-5 record.
#4 STRATH HAVEN 3, #20 CENTRAL BUCKS EAST 0
The Patriots closed out their season with a 12-6 record.