LANSDALE >> North Penn boys’ volleyball has been riding the wave.
That’s how coach Ryan Genova has been describing it to his players. When the wave crests, the Knights are great, their energy is up, they communicate and they do everything well. When the wave breaks, they don’t have that same energy and things don’t always go right.
Monday, they were on the right side of the wave and rode it to a 3-0 (25-21, 25-17, 25-19) win over Lansdale Catholic.
“Volleyball is a lot of talking, communication, teamwork and building each other up,” Knights senior setter Ryan Ko said. “That’s what’s going to make us better, because our energy is really up there when we’re doing well.”
Ko has it good this season, at least when it comes to running offense. North Penn has a couple of different guys it can go to for a swing and won’t have to rely on just one or two hitters to produce most of its kills. While it’s easier to just keep setting one guy rally after rally, being more diverse is an asset.
The setter said he prefers things that way. Every guy wants the ball set a little differently, but that’s fine with Ko, who wants to mix things up. Some of his teammates are new to the game and like to try different things and Ko’s fine with that too.
Anything to keep the defense guessing helps.
“As opposed to last year, there’s not a go-to guy, which makes it kind of fun,” Genova said. “Everybody gets involved offensively. Ryan does a ridiculous job, he scoots all over that court and it is fun to watch.”
The Crusaders, in their fourth season as a program, are still building toward consistency after graduating eight seniors from last year’s state tournament team. Coach Kathy Arnow has more players than ever, with 24 guys between varsity and JV although like North Penn, some of them are brand new.
LC has a go-to guy in Shane Ward, who had eight kills and three blocks in Monday’s match and is working to find some secondary guys around him.
Both teams played in a tournament at Haverford on Saturday. North Penn had good energy, an up the wave kind of day, and Ko said its serve receive was great. LC played well, reaching the semifinals, but couldn’t carry all of that over into Monday’s match.
“(North Penn’s) serves are really good and I knew coming in if we couldn’t hold our serve receive it was going to be tough,” Arnow said. “That’s something we know we need to work on during the season. We need consistency and that’s why we’re playing a lot of matches here early in the season to try and find a rhythm. I have total faith in these kids.”
Ko spread the wealth, with Alex Stoler, Hayden Rhodes and Saavan Boghara all knocking down multiple kills. Senior Bobby Dean, the Knights’ 6-foot-4 goalkeeper in soccer season, was the driving force offensively on Monday. Dean had 10 kills and put a lot of force into his swings.
North Penn trailed 6-5 in the first game before ripping off nine straight points to take a 14-7 lead. Arnow said that might have taken some energy out of her players and she didn’t see their usual level of zip late in the match.
“This is good competition for us and this is what they need to see,” Arnow said. “They had moments of greatness. Our theme for the season is that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. It’s a long season with a lot of matches. North Penn is a good program, I’m glad we got to come play them and I hope to continue that.”
North Penn libero Manan Patel had a good match flying around the court defensively. Ko said Patel wasn’t his sharpest in the tournament over the weekend, but found a way to up his energy on Monday and that in turn, spread to the rest of the guys.
The Knights’ goals are the same as always. They want to contend in the SOL, make districts and peak at the right time and challenge for a state playoff spot.
They won’t be able to ride one big wave for the next two months to do that. What the Knights can do is manage the downs through mutual encouragement and communicating so when they do happen, it’s easier to pull themselves back upward.
“Our coach told us we’re like a wave,” Ko said. “We have a lot of ups and downs. When we’re up, we’re good. When we’re down, we have to pull ourselves up and keep going. It can be shaky, but in the long run, I think we’ll be fine.”
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