NEWTOWN – Where Hurricane Matthew threatened to be the perfect storm, the Council Rock North girls volleyball team has provided just such a powerful tempest in the Suburban One League (SOL). Presently sitting atop the National Division with an unblemished 15-0 mark, the Lady Indians possess that rare blend of athletic talent, veteran savvy and youthful energy.
Sitting in the eye of the CR North volleyball storm is Hadley Grundman. Last year, the Indians’ middle blocker earned All-SOL honors by recording 114 kills, 49 blocks, 25 digs and 25 aces. This year, the University of Chicago bound senior has stood tall as the Rock has built a 15-2 overall record. All told, the Indians have lost only five sets in 15 league matches.
Hadley’s entry into the volleyball wars was sibling inspired. “I started playing in seventh grade. I really wanted to join the team because my sister (Emily) was playing in high school at that time and she absolutely loved the camaraderie of the team and I wanted to experience that myself.”
As she readily attests, Hadley has not been disappointed. Her present team is a close knit group. “We are really lucky to have so many great girls on the team. The camaraderie is one of my favorite things. We’re kind of quirky and strange and it works well together. We complement each other’s personalities. Several of us have been playing together since middle school. We have developed real bonds.”
Joining Hadley in the senior ranks are Johanna Batterton, Morgan Collito, Caroline Kuiken, Katherine Ligos and Robin Smith. The sextet entered the 2016 campaign with some understandably high expectations.
“The seniors on the team talked about it before the season. It’s our senior year and we want to get on the banners in the gym that designate championship teams. We set our eyes not only on the league title but getting further into districts and states.”
With only three games left in the regular season against Neshaminy, Pennsbury and Bensalem, the Indians appear well on their way to a strong postseason run. The winning streak really gained momentum when the Rock vanquished their archrival Pennsbury in straight sets on Sept. 20.
“One of our biggest rivals is Pennsbury. We have so much energy for that game. It usually goes to five sets. This year, when we won 3-0 it was kind of like ‘wow,’ our team is really cohesive and able to clinch this win even against such great competition.”
The Indians’ most recent SOL victim was their sister school Council Rock South in a contest going way beyond a backyard rivalry. It was Dig Pink night, an event aiming to help fight breast cancer.
“We always love our Dig Pink match. It raises awareness for a good cause. Several of the girls have been affected. It’s nice to rally around one another to support the girls whose moms have been affected by it.”
The spirit in South’s gym certainly ran high as North dominated the first two sets 25-15 and 25-16. Experience, however, has helped Hadley and her teammates not to take anything for granted.
“We channeled all our energy from Dig Pink into trying to prevail during the game. We knew it was going to be tough because even if you win one set, doesn’t mean the next will come easy. More than likely, the other team will get more amped to win.”
Hadley’s prophecy rang true as South battled back in the third set. Down 5-2, the Golden Hawks, led by senior co-captain Natalia Kazokas, scored five straight points to pull ahead. The lead would not hold as the Indians staged their own rally. Junior Sarah Caola had a four-point service run which put North on top 21-17.
The Hawks refused to quit. Back-to-back kills by Celina Varian and a service point by Lauren Koestler put them back in front 23-22. The Indians responded with three points of their own, capped off by a kill from Katherine Ligos.
The win streak had reached 15 straight league victories, an impressive run Hadley attributes to her team’s determination. “We knew we had to be mentally tough. We really rallied together and clinched the victory.”
Morgan Collito led the Indians with eight kills, eight digs and three aces. Katherine (Birdie) Ligos was close behind with nine kills, seven digs an ace. Hadley added three kills, one block and two digs.
The 3-0 victory assured that the Indians would hold on to their eighth place Power Ranking in District One, a position that should bode well come playoff time. This is one perfect volleyball storm that appears destined not to weaken.