NEWTOWN – Usually, schedule-makers save big rivalry games for later in the season. The masterminds who designed the SOL National Division volleyball campaign thought differently. They opted to feature two archrivals, Pennsbury and Council Rock North, in an early league tussle.
Not surprisingly, the two perennial powerhouses engaged in a two-and- a-half-hour thriller that saw Pennsbury win by the narrowest of margins. The match featured great defense, some explosive offensive runs, a series of comebacks and a dramatic ending.
Logan Fuglestad, Council Rock North’s senior setter, knew the game’s importance. “We knew it was going to be a big match. They are our biggest league rival. We tried to stay focused and give everything we’ve got. It is one of the biggest matches of the year.”
Council Rock entered this season ranked number 6 in Class AAA according to The Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association. The high appraisal grew from the Rock’s strong finish last year. North reached the PIAA District One Class AAA final and then took eventual state champ Parkland to five games before losing their opening round state match-up.
The presence of several key veterans in the starting line-up only reinforced the preseason prognosticators’ optimism. Logan sensed the Indians were balanced both emotionally and physically.
“We’re really close. I’m not sure of the numbers but we have a lot of seniors this year and we’re all really close friends. That really helps as a team. We stick together and trust each other. We have a few big guys who do their thing and we have small guys in the back row that really help.”
Up front, seniors Will Desautelle and Jason Yakimiv provide the explosive hitting power. They are complemented by the blocking strength of junior Tom Angelina. Eric Vanthuyne, Alex Sarceno and Aaron Knotts roam the backline, digging out enemy serves.
Logan mans the all-important setter position, a role he initially never envisioned for himself. “I played a lot of sports but when I was in seventh grade my mom, who played volleyball, pushed me in that direction. When I first started I told her I’d never be able to set because it’s so hard. Now, I’m a setter so it’s pretty ironic.”
In essence, Logan senses he is the equivalent of team quarterback. “As a setter, you have to know how to run the offense, how to call the plays and where to set the ball. It’s tough to think of the plays so quickly. You have to kind of look across the net and see where your best options are. You see where the big blockers are on the other side of the net and who you want to stay away from. You also have to know who is hitting well on your team and keep setting them.”
Against Pennsbury, the Indians definitely assumed an offensive-minded approach featuring slams from Desautelle and Yakimiv. Unfortunately for the home court crowd at Rock North, Pennsbury threw up a hustling and effective defense.
“We looked more offensive in that match but Pennsbury was doing a great job playing defense. They were scrambling so much. That can frustrate a team if you scramble that well.”
The Indians found themselves losing the first two games by scores of 25-21 and 25-23. North, refused to surrender, however, roaring back to take the next two games, 26-24 and 25-23.
“We believe in each other. Our coach (Greg Marchetti) said to keep going and plugging away and eventually we’d get a few to drop. We knew we could come back as well as we did. We just needed to keep playing our game and stick to the game plan.”
The final game followed a perfect thriller script with numerous lead changes. The Falcons finally prevailed by the slimmest 19-17 margin.
“We had the lead in the beginning and then they got it. Both sides were really tired. They just played better defense than us and that helped them win.”
Both teams were physically spent at the end of the volleyball marathon. “The adrenaline set in and you had to keep going until the end. It was definitely taxing. We were exhausted.”
When it was all over, the Rock was also emotionally drained. “It was definitely heartbreaking losing at home to Pennsbury, especially in that way, coming all the way back. We definitely have to keep our heads up and use it as a learning experience. We have to work harder in practice and come out strong the rest of the season. We definitely don’t want that feeling again. We want to beat Pennsbury.”
The Indians will get their chance for revenge on April 22 at Pennsbury. That match should be every bit as exciting as their first meeting.
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