FALLS TWP. – Pennsbury senior Louie Bavas began last season in the starting lineup but found it hard to crack that rotation once the Falcons began their league season.
Once a shooting guard for the Pennsbury basketball team, he gave up basketball this year, instead, devoting his attention in the offseason to volleyball.
The improvement was obvious around the Suburban One National League as he was nominated last night first team All-SOL National Conference.
This afternoon, he helped the Falcons to a 3-0 sweep of eighth-seeded Neshaminy in the District 1 Class AAA boys volleyball tournament.
“Louie has put together and awesome season – an unbelievable season,” stated Pennsbury head coach Justin Fee. “Without him, we wouldn’t have been undefeated in the league. We didn’t drop a set all year, partially because of Sean (Sweeney) and Louie (Bavas) and a mixture of a few other guys.
“But he’s really come out of nowhere this year.”
For the match, Bavas recorded 10 kills, seven digs, three blocks and a pair of aces, sending the Falcons to a District 1 semifinal date against the winner of CB East/Avon Grove Tuesday, May 23 at Charles Boehme Middle School.
“Louie has been a huge contributor this year; he’s been awesome,” added Sweeney. “He really got a ton better in the offseason.”
Bavas’ counterpart on the outside, Sweeney came through with 12 kills, five digs, a block and an ace.
The top-seeded Falcons led game one from start to finish and, after bouncing back and forth through the first 15 points in game two, pulled away for a second straight 25-20 victory.
Game three is where things got interesting.
Thanks to a few blocks by Skins senior middle hitter Tim Stressman, a few kills by opposite Tommy Edwards and a few forced hitting errors by outside hitter Shaun Kelly, Neshaminy shocked the home town fans by lurching out to a 7-1 lead in game three.
No worries, said Fee.
“It was early in the set at that point,” the coach commented. “If you’re panicking at that point, you don’t have a lot of confidence.”
Pennsbury tied the game at 15 before Sweeney gave the home team its first lead with a touch over the net that went for a kill.
The Falcons were up 20-16 when Edwards and Kelly brought the visitors within a pair at 20-18. Playing in a reserve role, Pennsbury senior Marshall Nixon came through with back-to-back kills to put the home team up 22-18.
However, consecutive two-hit violations on the Skins put the Falcons into a game-point situation. After a kill by Neshaminy junior middle hitter Ben McGonagle and a two-hit violation on Pennsbury, the Falcons closed it out with a kill by Bavas – who else!
“For him to come back to be named a first team all-leaguer, that speaks a lot about him and what he did in the offseason and how much he’s learned,” added Fee.
The competition surely gets tougher from here. In the semifinals set for Tuesday May 23, Pennsbury will face either fourth-seeded Avon Grove or No. 5 CB East. Both teams are on the verge of making history this season with the Red Devils never making it to the D-1 semis and the Patriots making the postseason for the first time in two decades.
After not playing for eight days, the Falcons had to shake off some rust in order to advance to the semifinals.
“The way the playoffs are set up, things should get a lot tougher,” said Fee. “We have to play a little bit better on our side. We were a little sloppy today; we made a lot more errors than we normally make.
“I don’t think we were moving real well to the ball tonight but a win’s a win.
“Any season in which you can tell me we’re going to go nine-and-oh against Neshaminy in sets played, I’ll take it.”
Indeed, Pennsbury swept the Skins in all three matchups this season. It was a tough way for the Neshaminy seniors to end their careers.
“It’s hard to process right now; I can’t believe we’re not going to be playing volleyball anymore,” said Kelly, who stepped up with seven kills, five digs and a block. “I went out giving it everything I had; that’s all I could really do.”
Kelly is cousin to Edwards. Along with Stressman, the trio sparked the Skins this year.
“No one wanted to go out ending their career here,” added Kelly. “We just went out and gave it all we had the last set. We were able to get a few good runs; we just weren’t able to pull it out, in the end.”
After missing the last year-and-half with a shoulder injury, Edwards came back to lead Neshaminy this year. And he led the Skins in this one with 14 kills, three digs and an ace.
“I am extremely proud of our guys,” said Neshaminy head coach Pat Klingerman. “They fought hard and never quit. Pennsbury is a very good team, and they will go far in the playoffs. But our guys fought for every hit and left it all on the court.”
Also coming through for the Skins were Anthony Verrecchio (3 kills, 1 ace, 2 blocks), Ben McGonagle (1 kill), Tim Stressman (2 kills, 2 blocks), Steve Reich (3 digs), Steve Wenderlich (9 digs, 1 ace), Miguel Montalvo (26 assists) and Alex Swiderski (5 digs).
Stepping up for the Falcons were sophomore Andy Delworth with 32 assists, a pair of digs and a kill to close out a 25-20 victory in the first set. Junior libero Charlie Bluestein added 10 digs for the Falcons, who finished third in the District 1-AAA Tournament last year after a five-set win over CB West.
Pennsbury lost in the first round of the 2016 PIAA Tournament to District 3 champion Penn Manor.
The Falcons last won districts in 2013, making it all the way to the state finals that year.
TOP PHOTO: Pennsbury junior Charlie Bluestein, right, sets the ball as classmate Brett Garretson (18) looks on in the Falcons 3-0 sweep of Neshaminy in the District 1-AAA quarterfinals Thursday, May 18 at Pennsbury. (Steve Sherman – 21st-Century Media)
Pennsbury 3, Neshaminy 0
(May 18 at Pennsbury)
PENNSBURY 25 25 25 – 3
NESHAMINY 20 20 20 – 0