WHITEMARSH >> It’s been a long time coming for the Plymouth Whitemarsh girls volleyball team.
The Lady Colonials haven’t been Suburban One League champs since 1999. Monday afternoon, they became the Continental champions.
PW beat North Penn in three sets, 25-13, 25-20, 25-8, at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School to improve to 17-0 in league play (21-0 overall) and secure first place for the first time in 17 years.
“It’s a very, very special team,” PW coach Seely Byler said. “Not one standout star, but very evenly balanced. I can feed the ball to whomever. It’s just a really special team.
“We’ve had one of our starting outsides miss five matches and we have that deep of a bench that we’re able to put other kids in. It’s also helped to kind of build our chemistry because I can put anyone in and everyone feels like they’re part of what we’re doing this year.”
Danielle Rippert led the Colonials with 12 kills and 14 digs against the Knights. Lily Acquaviva had four aces and 11 digs. Emilee Waltz tallied a team-high four assists.
The second set was the tightest of the match. The teams were within a couple points throughout the set until PW pulled away towards the end and won, 25-20.
“I know they’re always going to figure it out,” Byler said. “I don’t like to jump the gun with too much coaching at that point and they’re very mentally strong. I do all the coaching at practice and let them play. It’s a great team.”
“The second game, we had them,” North Penn coach Brian Harvey said. “My girls are so resilient, they don’t give up. We might start off slow, but we don’t give up … We had the lead all the way to 19 points, but it came down to possibly limiting your errors … the person who makes the least amount of errors against a team that has that much talent is going to win the game.”
Allison Elechko and Kim Ehleben each had two kills in the second set for North Penn and Ehleben added 14 digs.
After winning the tight second set, PW exploded in the third. The teams traded points to start and the Colonials went on a 9-1 run to take a 10-2 advantage.
They cruised to the end of the match by winning, 25-8, to become league champs.
“They really want this so bad,” Byler said. “They are working really hard right now and that’s what we’ve been talking about from a couple weeks in — just we need to push through the entire season. Sometimes we can kind of go up and down, but we’ve pushed hard all season. It’s been really nice.”
Harvey gave all the credit to Plymouth Whitemarsh for the win, noting that they have some of the best servers and smartest hitters in the district, but was upset with playing both Hatboro-Horsham (14-2 SOL Continental) and the Colonials without a day of practice in between.
“I hate Monday games,” he said, “because you don’t have that one day to say, ‘hey we came into the gym to practice.’ We played Friday. We played solid. I just wish I had a practice day to come against this team and prepare instead of Thursday preparing for Hatboro-Horsham (and PW). That’s hard.”
Now, the focus turns toward the playoffs. In the latest power rankings PW was ranked No. 3 in District 1 Class AAAA.
“We’re hoping for that bye going into next week,” Byler said. “Scrimmage somebody at the end of the week to get ready for next week and rest up.”
North Penn is also looking to make the playoffs. The Knights were ranked No. 31 in the latest rankings and hope their recent success combined with a win in their final game against Quakertown Wednesday will be enough to jump into the top 24.
“We were 3-17 last year and we’re 10-11 now,” Harvey said. “We’ll end up 11-11. We were 31st in the rankings — top 24 make it. We were on a five-game winning streak, beating LC, Upper Darby, Cheltenham, Pennridge … A five-game winning streak should boost us up and teams that were ahead of us we beat.”