When points are at their most precious, when every dig, pass and hit has to be perfect, those are the moments in volleyball where senior Ben Chinnici was in his element.
“Those are my favorite, When it’s like 14-14 in the fifth set — absolutely favorite moments,” said the senior after Pennridge’s 3-2 win over Dallastown in the PIAA Class AAA first round. “That’s why I play volleyball, for a match like this.”
And in those moments, Chinnici delivered. The 2017 Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery Player of the Year, Chinnici help lead the Rams to a third straight District 1 championship and then the quarterfinals of the state tournament.
“I think there was always that mentality that even though we had a rough start to the season with a bunch of people out or sick and so on, we still had the capability that when everyone’s back together and practicing and playing together, we can take that district title,” said Chinnici after Pennridge edged Pennsbury in the district final.
Chinnici, a 6-foot-4 outside hitter, averaged 24.2 kills in six postseason matches — three Pennridge won in five sets — as the Rams became the first team to threepeat as District 1 champ since Souderton in 1993.
“I think this one was my favorite one, honestly,” he said of the district title after beating Pennsbury in the final. “It’s my senior year I’m going to college being happy with what I did in high school.”
Chinnici capped off his high school career by earning both Suburban One League Continental Conference and Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association All-District 1 first-team honors for the third straight season.
He now heads off to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana to assist the Cardinals in competing in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association, a league that includes two-time defending NCAA champ Ohio State.
After missing Pennridge’s first seven matches of 2017 with a broken hand – the Rams going 3-4 during the stretch — Chinnici returned to the court against eventual SOL Continental champ Central Bucks West on April 19. He deliver 23 kills, three blocks and three aces as the Rams rallied for a 3-2 win.
Pennridge ended the regular season winning 10 of its last 11, capped by a 3-0 victory over CB West – Chinnici going for 15 kills, seven digs and three blocks in that match – putting the Rams at 13-5 overall 13-3 SOL Continental), which gave them the sixth seed in the district tournament.
Chinnici had seven kills and seven aces as Pennridge swept Haverford in the district opener then gave the Rams 27 kills, 16 digs, eight blocks and three aces in the quarterfinals as the Rams outlasted CB West 3-2 for their third win over the Bucks.
Against Council Rock North in the district semis, Chinnici put down 29 kills and made 20 digs as the Rams won in four sets to clinch their ninth consecutive PIAA tournament berth.
Two days later, Pennridge claimed the District 1 title for a third straight season, rallying for a set down to edge Pennsbury 3-2 – winning the fifth set 15-7. Chinnici finished with a postseason-high 30 kills to go along with 17 digs.
“It’s really exciting to see, to go four years and see players progress together and then come out, fight really hard for a district title like this,” said Chinnici after the Rams sealed the threepeat.
The Rams went five sets in both of their PIAA matches. Against Dallastown in the first round, Chinnici’s block sealed a 30-28 win in the fourth set, with the Pennridge advanced to the state quarters for the second straight year with a 15-12 win in the fifth. Chinnici posted 26 kills, eight aces and four blocks in the victory.
Emmaus ended Pennridge’s PIAA run in the quarters, but Chinnici ended his career with the Rams with another stellar effort, collecting 26 kills, 16 digs and a trio of aces.
Top Photo: Pennridge senior Ben Chinnici, left, gets set for the kill for the Rams, who claimed their third straight District 1 Class AAA boys volleyball championship on Thursday, May 25 at William Tennent High School. (Steve Sherman/Digital First Media)