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Council Rock North ends Pennridge’s District 1 reign with 3A semifinal sweep

NEWTOWN >> The No. 1 seeded Council Rock North boys volleyball team got revenge for not one, not two, but three consecutive District 1 playoff losses Tuesday night.

The Indians beat three-time defending champ No. 4 Pennridge, 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 27-25), in the District 1 Class 3A semifinals at Council Rock High School North after losing to the Rams in each of the last three seasons.

“This is as much of a physical test as it is a mental test for our guys,” North coach Greg Marchetti said. “Just coming in and being at home makes a big difference. In 2015 and 2016 we lost to them in back-to-back district championships. Last year we lost to them here in the final four match. Especially coming off a game Thursday when we didn’t play at our fullest potential, it’s just a huge, huge confidence booster for our guys going forward. I couldn’t be prouder as a coach.”

North faces the winner of Central Bucks East and Pennsbury in the championship Thursday night at Bensalem High School at 7:30 p.m.

Pennridge faces the loser Thursday for third place in the district and a spot in the state playoffs.

“That’s the goal at this point,” Pennridge coach Dave Childs said of Pennridge looking for its 10th straight state appearance.

“Any of these final places we have to go is going to be a tough place to play in. They all bring a tough home crowd. It doesn’t matter where we go. We have to play better.”

The Indians controlled the early parts of the first game, building a 9-4 advantage.

The Rams battled back behind some strong serves from Kevin Jones to tie the game at nine.

North made its move when trailing, 17-16. With freshman Justin Burns serving, the Indians scored seven straight points to take a 23-17 lead before closing it out, 25-19, courtesy of a Nick Baniewicz block.

“Our big thing in this match was to not worry about what’s going on on their side of the net,” Marchetti said. “Just try to stay controlled, stay focused, play with emotion, but also make smart choices on the court. It helps having five seniors on the court. We also have a freshman who’s in the lineup, but he plays like a senior a lot. That experience — being here last year — when they get down or get in big situations, this year they’re looking at that as an opportunity whereas last year it was a little bit hard for them to overcome it.”

That momentum carried into the second game. North controlled the entire time and took advantage of the Rams mistakes to take a 2-0 lead, 25-15. The game was 15-11 midway through before North went on a 10-4 run.

The third game was the most competitive of the night. There were 16 ties and the largest lead was Pennridge by three, 19-16.

North took a 26-25 lead on a long Pennridge serve and finished it off, 27-25, when a Rams return was too long.

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