TOWAMENCIN >> North Penn battled back from a 4-3 halftime deficit to push through to its second consecutive state crown Saturday night, as the Maidens earned a 7-6 win over rival Cumberland Valley in the Girls Water Polo State Final at a packed and raucous Rick Carroll Natatorium.
“Honestly, it feels like a dream,” said Maidens senior Shannon Quinn. “This is what we’ve been wanting the whole entire season. This is what we’ve worked for for so long and it feels so good to have all the hard work pay off.”
The win completed a decade of dominance for the North Penn girls, who claimed their seventh state crown in 10 seasons. Remarkably, it was also North Penn’s eighth straight trip to the state final.
The Maidens withstood their most difficult challenge of the season to reach perfection, finishing unbeaten at 29-0. It was NP’s first perfect season since 2006 (29-0).
“Really perfect season. The girls played out of their minds,” said Maidens coach Katie Grunmeier, who earned Coach of the Year honors after directing the team to a state crown in her first season as head coach. “I couldn’t be more proud of them. To win a state championship is one thing, but having an undefeated season is a whole other battle.”
Case in point, Saturday’s final against Cumberland Valley. The Maidens had defeated the Eagles by seven and by 10 in the two earlier meetings this season, but this time, Cumberland Valley, with its persistent defense, proved to be a much tougher test.
The Maidens took the lead for good in the third, 6-5, and then got a rainbow of a shot by Caroline Gillespie to provide a 7-5 lead with 4 minutes, 20 seconds left to play.
“They dug down deep and they did it,” Grunmeier said. “I think we finally started driving inside, we relaxed, we played our game.”
Cumberland Valley trimmed the margin to one with just 15 seconds to play, but North Penn’s defense, solid throughout, held from there.
The victory served as a fitting climax for North Penn’s Mount Rushmore of seniors: Quinn, Aimee Baur, Erin O’Neill and Leah Brown were all named First Team All-State.
Three goals by Brown, two by Quinn, and one each by O’Neill and Gillespie provided all the points the Maidens would need.
“CV’s a really good team and they put us in for a really good fight,” Quinn said, “but we pulled through at the end, and it feels awesome.”
Early on, North Penn took a 1-0 lead a little under three minutes into the contest, with Quinn scoring the first of her two goals.
Cumberland Valley tied it at one apiece, but just 10 seconds later, a goal by Brown put the Maidens back in front, 2-1. Brown scored again with 23 seconds left in the quarter to provide some breathing room.
The second quarter was all Eagles though, as Cumberland Valley scored three straight goals to take a 4-3 lead into halftime.
The third quarter was pivotal for North Penn.
The Maidens got a goal each from O’Neill, Quinn and Brown to build a 6-5 lead heading into the fourth. Seven minutes later, NP was celebrating its second straight state crown.
North Penn began the tournament with a 14-5 win over Pennridge, then held off Villa Maria, 11-8, in the semifinals.
Cumberland Valley, meanwhile, earned an 11-1 victory over Springfield in the quarterfinals, followed by a 9-4 decision over Wilson.
Pennridge rallied back in the seventh-place game but fell short, 8-7, to North Allegheny.
After losing a defensive battle to Villa Maria, 5-3, Souderton Area responded with a 5-2 win over the Rams to earn a spot in the fifth-place game Saturday night.
There, the Indians squared off against Springfield, and in one of the most exciting games of the weekend, Big Red pulled off a 9-8 thriller in sudden-death overtime.
Following in the third-place game, Wilson rolled to a 10-6 win over Villa Maria.
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