QUAKERTOWN>> Pennridge has made a habit of falling behind 2-1 in matches, only to come all the way back and win.
In the District 1-3A final against Pennsbury, the Rams mounted their comeback and won in five sets despite an early deficit. Then, in their PIAA first round matchup they did the exact same thing against Dallastown.
Saturday afternoon against Emmaus, it looked as though the Rams were going to do it again, as they battled back from 2-1 down in the match and took an eventual 10-7 lead in the fifth and final set.
Unfortunately for the Rams, they couldn’t finish the effort as they fell 15-11 in the fifth and lost the match 3-2 (26-24, 25-14, 25-22, 26-24, 15-11).
“You can’t keep living like that (coming from behind) and eventually it caught up with us here,’’ said Pennridge head coach Dave Childs. “You just have to give Emmaus credit, they were a good team this year.’’
Calling Emmaus a “good team” may be a bit of an understatement. The District 11 champion Hornets went undefeated in conference play this season and until Saturday had yet to drop a single set in postseason play. Unfortunately for Pennridge, the stout defense from its opponents kept the Rams at bay for most of the match.
The frontline of Noah Bacon, Matt Swanson and Carson Landis gave Pennridge trouble at the net and forced them to alter its gameplan.
It was also an uncharacteristically sloppy afternoon for the Rams. Anytime they seemed to sharpen their play and look set to take control of the match they would shoot themselves in the foot with a missed serve or a mental mistake that would cost them a point.
The same would again be the case in the fifth set, as they let Emmaus go on an 8-1 run to end the match and get the victory to advance to the PIAA semifinals.
“We just made mental mistakes there at the end,’ said Childs. “They executed, give them credit too, but it was a combination of that.’’
The loss brings the Rams’ season to an end but it also brings an end to two of the more successful careers in Pennridge volleyball history.
Seniors Josiah Friesen and Ben Chinnici have played a combined seven seasons of varsity volleyball, won three consecutive District 1 championships, and were both crucial members of last year’s team that made it to the PIAA semifinals.
They’re a relatively young team, as Chinnici and Friesen are the only two seniors the Rams will lose this season, but they’ve both been key components in helping the program become what it is today.
Chinnici, who is headed to Ball State to play volleyball next year, has been a varsity player his entire four-year career and put forth another impressive performance in Saturday’s loss. He finished with a team-high 26 kills and added 16 digs and three aces as well.
Not only will he go down as the best player in school history, but he’s also one of the best players the area has ever produced and says even though he’s continuing to play in college, he’s proud of what he accomplished over his career.
“It was a lot of fun with a lot of great people and I’m proud of it,’’ said Chinnici. “I’m proud of what I did here at Pennridge and trying to help everyone get to the level they’re at now. It was awesome.”
Friesen, who will play next year at Messiah College, probably doesn’t get the same amount of attention as Chinnici, but he’s been just as important to this team.
He does a little bit of everything and is all over the floor when he’s out there, something that has proved invaluable in his time at Pennridge.
“They’re both (Chinnici and Friesen) phenomenal players,’’ said Childs. “I think Ben gets a lot of the credit but Jo (Friesen) has done a great job all year for us. He gets overlooked a lot but we’re not here without Jo’s play.’’
Next season will be another successful one for the Rams, as they return great players that were crucial members of this year’s team. Cross Edwards and Corey Quaste will take on more prominent roles, and they’ll once again be in the hunt for a District 1-3A title, but they’ll have big shoes to fill and will need to figure it out fast if they hope to take the reins from Chinnici and Friesen.
Emmaus 3, Pennridge 2
Emmaus 24 25 25 24 15 – 3
Pennridge 26 14 22 26 11 – 2