Pennsbury captured the final state berth with a win in Thursday’s District 1 3A third place match against Pennridge. Photos provided courtesy of Jon Sklut. Check back for a gallery of photos.
Pennsbury 3, Pennridge 1 (24-26, 25-22, 25-22, 26-24)
The second-seeded Falcons were looking for a bounce-back win after Tuesday’s disappointing loss to North Penn in the District 1 3A semifinals. They got exactly what they were looking for, and after dropping a tightly contested opening set, they won the next three.
“I’m obviously proud of these guys,” coach Justin Fee said. “Our goal was to win the league and win the district. We fell short on that second one, but obviously, you’re going to re-establish another goal of doing the best you can in the state playoffs.
“We had to make it there first, so it’s nice to see these guys do that and give us a chance.”
The loss brought to an end a magical postseason run for a Rams’ squad that entered the tournament as the 12th and final seed.
“We turned something on in the playoffs and came out with some passion and earned a couple of wins,” Pennridge coach Dave Childs said. “We didn’t really execute well here, but credit to Pennsbury tonight. They played well, they adjusted really well.
“They cut out their errors after game one and really played much more efficient. They had a clear game plan, they’re very well coached, and they executed really well.”
As a result of the win, the Falcons earned the third and final berth in the upcoming state tournament. It also erased memories of the loss to the Knights.
“We didn’t serve very well at all in that match, and our passing was a little down, but I think it was all because of our serving, which we worked on in practice,” senior Justin Sadley said. “Hopefully, that’s what got us the win.”
The Falcons, according to Sadley, remained confident even after they dropped the first set.
“We were just saying – ‘It’s only the first set,’ and we were really close at the end,” the senior opposite hitter said. “We weren’t too upset about that.”
In the third set, the Falcons opened up a 9-7 lead after a Will Bednarz service ace. The Rams came back to take an 11-10 lead after a Ryan Benscoter kill, but a Loerch kill knotted the score. The Falcons took a 14-13 lead and extended that to 19-16 after a Sadley kill. The Rams pulled to within two but would get no closer, and Sebastian Kloda delivered a kill for set point.
“Definitely our passing was a lot better and our serving, which helped us get more in system and get more kills,” Sadley said.
The fourth set was another battle. The Falcons led 15-12 after a Kloda kill, but the Rams came back to knot the score 18-18 after an Ethan Lionetti kill. Benscoter came up with a block and kill on back-to-back points to give the Rams a 20-18 advantage. They still led 23-21, but a Sadley kill was followed by a Pennridge hit out of play, knotting the score 23-23. The Falcons had match point after a Ram hit in the net, but a Chris McKinney kill knotted the score. Loerch delivered a kill to put the Falcons up by one, and Bednarz closed it out with a service ace.
“What I really did like was at the end of the last set – Luke Bucksar got back there and jump served three balls in a row,” Fee said. “It didn’t go that way against North Penn - they got back there at game point and buried one in the bottom of the net, and it almost didn’t hit the net, so it was nice to see him work through those nerves.
“Another senior who’s a serving specialist – Will Bednarz - came off the bench and served that ace at the end. That was the one thing that stands out.”
It was the serving that proved to be the difference between Thursday’s win and Tuesday’s loss.
“We struggled serving, which started it all off,” Fee said of Tuesday’s loss to North Penn. “We weren’t hitting them, and it caused us to get really conservative. Once we got conservative, they three-passed everything, and they were siding out immediately, so we couldn’t go on any runs.
“We were getting down early and just not able to come back because we weren’t serving strong enough. The other thing against North Penn we didn’t pass very well. That led to people not hitting very strongly and made us really predictable, so that was our main focus in practice the other day.
“I showed them the statistics, and I said, ‘This was our serving rating.’ They really made us get out of our game plan. That’s been our problem all year. Sometimes we go too hard and get too many service errors. Then we loosen up and make things too easy, and teams are running it down our throat. We have to find that balance.”
Pennsbury will face District 12 champion La Salle in Tuesday’s opening round state game.
“My whole goal was to get to states, especially because I’m a senior this year,” Sadley said. “It was really important to win this game for us. Now we got to states, so we’ve got to try and make a run.”
EXTRA POINTS: Sadley had a big night at the net, leading the Falcons with 17 kills to go along with three digs, one ace and one block. Loerch added 14 kills, seven digs and two aces. Setter Andy Delworth had 44 assists, two kills (.400), eight digs, two aces and one block. Bucksar added nine kills, seven digs, one assist and one ace, and Kloda had four kills and one block. Nathan Sadley added three kills. Will Bedanarz had one ace, and Matt Caissie had three assists and seven digs…the Rams were led by the 22-kill effort of Benscoter, who also had 10 digs. McKinney had 10 kills and 10 digs, and Austin Jalosinski added eight kills and two blocks. Lionetti had six kills and two aces. Danny Rutter led the defense with 19 digs and two aces. Matt McCreary had three blocks. Setter Tommy Cassel had 40 assists.