EAST ROCKHILL >> Pennridge scored on its first offensive play of the game and spent the rest of the evening winning its way into the State Tournament in commanding fashion, earning a 16-7 victory over visiting Hazleton Tuesday night.
For the Rams, who head to North Penn Friday and Saturday playing some of the their best water polo of the season, states is becoming a tradition.
“We’re following up from last year,” said Jeff Swartz, who was instrumental in the win, with four goals, one assist and a pair of steals. “This is the second year in the history of the program that Pennridge has gone to states, and to be on the team that went two years in a row feels pretty good.
“Today was a big win. And hopefully we can do pretty well at states.”
The Rams dominated the first quarter, building a 5-1 lead in front of a boisterous home crowd, complete with the school band.
“I think overall we played a great game. We controlled it from the early minutes,” Pennridge coach Dave Apple said. “We wanted to slow it down, keep it our game, keep the passes clean and on point and don’t shoot unless you know you have a shot.
“They’re shooting well, they’re playing well, we worked on a couple new plays the last three weeks that I’m comfortable with bringing into games now. I think they have it drilled enough that they’re comfortable to do them and know where to be in the pool and where to move.”
The Rams made all the right moves in building a 10-3 lead by the half.
“We didn’t wanna take this team lightly so we came out with all of our aggression,” Swartz said. “We have a good chemistry this year with all the different players and we really know how to play with each other.
“We’re playing with like 90 percent of the same players that we had last year, so we know each other and what we’re gonna do.”
Pennridge would stretch its lead to 10 by early in the fourth quarter. Josh Yardley scored six goals for the Rams, the first coming just 18 seconds in, Aiden Bunn and Ethan Lionetti each had two, and Kevin Jones and Rob Pritz added one apiece.
Jake Aigeldinger blocked eight shots in goal, helping Pennridge to pull away. The Rams will be the No. 7 or No. 8 seed this weekend, depending on the outcome of the Souderton Area-Governor Mifflin play-in contest.
It was the end of a tremendous season for the Cougars, who jumped from five wins a year ago to 15 this season. Hazleton, which placed fourth in the Central League during the regular season, got a five-goal effort from Jorge Moncayo on Tuesday night.
“Pennridge is a well-coached team,” Cougars coach George Maue said. “They’re quick to transition. (Swartz) has a great shot and (Rob Pritz) did a lot of nice things. We just didn’t have the answers for a lot of what they had on the transition.
“We’re a very young team — I start four sophomores. So this is a learning process for us. We took a big step forward this year.”