Pennridge boys’ volleyball advanced to Thursday’s District One 3A title game. CR North is still alive for a state berth. Pennridge/CR North photos provided courtesy of Jon Sklut. Check back for a gallery of photos.
#4 PENNRIDGE 3, #1 COUNCIL ROCK NORTH 2 (25-22, 25-20, 20-25, 17-25, 17-15)
Dave Childs had no explanation for his team’s gutsy comeback in the winner-take-all fifth set of Monday night’s District One 3A semifinal match against top-seeded Rock North.
Perhaps all the veteran coach or anyone knew is that Rock North – behind the inspired play of Justin Burns – appeared to have all the momentum in the third and fourth sets after the Rams won the first two.
“We came out and just executed the first two games – it wasn’t anything special,” Childs said. “Then they – specifically Burns – turned it up. In (sets) three and four, he took over. He was jumping higher and hitting harder and really playing a good game, and we had to adjust.
“In game five – I don’t even know what happened in game five.”
In game five, the Rams opened up an 11-8 lead only to watch the Indians reel off five straight points to go on top 13-11. That’s when Ryan Benscoter came to the rescue, delivering three straight winners to put the Rams on top 14-13. A kill by Burns fought off match point. The Rams led 15-14, but another Burns kill evened the score. Benscoter answered with a kill that gave the Rams a 16-15 advantage, and they won it on an unusual match point that even Childs couldn’t explain.
“What I was told – the ball hit the ceiling and then came down in the plane of the net, which is the same as it coming down over the net,” Childs said.
Whether that was the call or not, the point was awarded to the Rams, who always are a dangerous team when the postseason rolls around. Comebacks, according to Childs, are nothing new to his squad.
“There have been games this year we’ve been down seven, eight or nine points, and we’ve come back and won,” Childs said. “I think they’re good with that.
“We try to keep it relaxed and play our game. We try to ignore the pressure in those situations and do what we know we’re capable of doing, so we can go out in a game five and keep ripping jump serves and still play the same way. I think sometimes in game fives teams change. I don’t think Council Rock did necessarily, but I think it became Justin versus Ryan. They went back and forth with kills for – I don’t know – 12 points with four, five or six points apiece.”
The Rams established themselves early in Monday’s match, opening up a lead in the opening set and maintaining it en route to the 25-22 win. The second set was deadlocked 12-12 when the Rams reeled off four unanswered points to take a 16-12 lead. The Indians pulled to within two but would get no closer.
The third and fourth sets featured a whole lot Justin Burns, but the Rams dug deep in the fifth set and came away with the win.
“Ryan was untouchable the first two – they had no answer for him the first two, and then Burns did the same thing,” Childs said. “It flipped. In game five, it was going back and forth.”
Benscoter’s dazzling stat line shows the senior standout finishing with 34 kills, seven digs, two aces and three blocks. Tyler Johnson added seven kills and four blocks while Bryce Muller had five kills and Thomas McKinney added four kills and eight digs.
Setter Riley Kodidek had 44 assists, two aces and 10 digs. Dan Detweiler finished with 14 digs and Skyler Ammon had eight.
“I think we were in the games because of our serving and because our libero played really well,” Childs said of Detweiler. “He’s really come on towards the end of the season, and he’s played really well.”
The Rams (16-2) will face the winner of Tuesday night’s Upper Dublin-Neshaminy semifinal match in Thursday’s title game. Pennridge has advanced to the District One finals in eight of the past 12 seasons.
If some are surprised, Childs is not.
“I thought it was possible,” he said. “Always the goal is to be in the final four and to have a shot to win a title.
“With a guy like ‘Scot’ and then the role players, the other guys we have around him, I did think it was something we could get to this year, and to their credit, we’ve gotten better. They’ve worked hard to get better, and here we are.”
Council Rock North will face the loser of Tuesday's district semifinal for the third and final state berth.