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Pennridge’s PIAA streak ends at 9, Pennsbury sweeps for 3rd place in District 1-3A

LOWER MAKEFIELD >> Qualifying for the PIAA Tournament has become the standard for the Pennridge boys volleyball team. So coming up just short of reaching states carried no consolation for the Rams Thursday night.

“By no means is this like feel good. This is very, very, very disappointing,” Pennridge coach Dave Childs said. “And I think we’re all feeling that right now.”

The fourth-seeded Rams built early leads in the first and three sets but host No. 3 Pennsbury rallied back each time as the Falcons ended Pennridge’s streak of consecutive PIAA appearances at nine with a 3-0 (28-26, 25-18, 25-23) victory in the District 1-3A third place match at Charles Boehm Middle School.

“We hung with them the whole time that first set, in the second set — I don’t know what happened with that, but other than that, we knew we could hang with them,” Rams senior Cross Edwards said. “But again we got comfortable with where we were at and that wasn’t good enough for a good team like Pennsbury.”

The Falcons surrendered a two-set lead in Tuesday’s semifinal loss to Central Bucks East and trailed 8-2 at the start of the opening set Thursday but Pennsbury coach Jason Fee was adamant about staying positive. And Fee’s side responded, clinching its third straight state berth in a rematch of last year’s district final won by the Rams in five.

“I was a little worried but I knew 100 percent sure I was not going to ever reference anything that occurred that day and even my assistant coaches reminding me — do not say anything like, ‘Hey remember we were already up 2-0 against CB East, we don’t want that to happen again,’” Fee said. “That’s never my approach. My approach is always to say something positive. If you bring up the negative it’s never going to be helpful. You know, sports psychology 101 right there.”

Chris McKinney and Kevin Jones each finished with eight kills while Saint Francis (Pa.) commit Edwards collected seven kills and five digs for the Rams. Corey Quaste had 22 assists while Danny Rutter and Ethan Lionetti made eight and seven digs, respectively. Pennridge, which last missed the state tournament in 2008, ends the season 16-5.

“It’s always a challenge. We have pieces though. We just didn’t play consistently enough,” Childs said. “I think we have talent but I think we make too many errors in our side, I think, over the course of the season, that was kind of a theme.”

Charlie Bluestein set a Pennsbury record for career digs with 10 in the match (he now sits at 396) while Justin Sadley recorded nine kills and eight digs.

“We were thinking about it but more like a positive sense,” said Falcons senior Kyle Faulcon of the loss to CB East. “That we were like, all right, we’re not going to let that happen again, we’re going to come in, we’re going to go hard and then we’re going this game no matter what. Like losing is not an option.”

Brett Garretson chipped in seven kills for the Falcons, who face the District 3 champ — either Cumberland Valley or Hempfield, who play Friday — in the first round of states.

“We have played Hempfield very, very tough twice in different tournaments throughout the year so we’re familiar with them,” Fee said. “And obviously I’ve seen Cumberland Valley and they’re both 100 percent complete teams. There’s not many weaknesses there. We’re going to have our work cut out for us.”

After falling behind 6-2 at the start of the first set, Pennsbury slowly began to cut into Pennridge’s lead, tying the game for the first time at 17-17 and eventually taking its first lead at 23-22 on a Daniel Quay block.

“I think Game 1, they just scored a point every time they had a serve,” Childs said. “They just outscored us two to one every time after we had that little lead and That’s what it seemed like anyway. There was no one big run, it was just they chipped away two, three points at a time every time back there. We just couldn’t side out well enough.”

The Falcons’ first set point came at 24-23 but their serve went long. Pennridge had a chance to take it up 25-24 only for Sadley to blast a shot down off a block. The Rams’ survived a second set point at 26-25 on another long serve by Pennsbury, but the Falcons finally went up 1-0 in the match as a block by Faulcon sealed the 28-26 victory.

“Fee was telling me how they like to run that back two slide thing so he just said to be ready for it,” Faulcon said. “I saw, I don’t know what number it was, but I saw him coming from behind, I got up, set up the block and went up and thank God I got the block.”

Pennsbury jumped out to a 9-3 lead in set No. 3 and extended its advantage to 14-6 before Pennridge finally found some success and put together an 11-4 run, cutting the margin to 18-15. The Falcons, however, answered by coming out of a time out and ripping off four straight points to make it 22-15. From there, the Rams could only get as close as six.

“They did a couple things different and we adjusted,” Childs said. “We actually climbed back in it a little bit, made it a three-point game at one point which I was really proud about cause that’s not something we’ve done this year. We’ve crumbed in those situations and lost that game 25-12. But we fought back to make it a three-point game and then they were able to finish it off because they’re Pennsbury and they’re, like I said, consistent like that.”

In the third set, Pennridge’s largest lead was five — the last time coming at 16-11 before an 8-2 Falcons run gave the home side its first lead at 19-18. With Pennsbury up 21-19, Pennridge claimed the next three points to go up 21-19. But the lead was the Rams’ last — out of a time out, the Falcons registered three points in a row for a 24-22 advantage and finished the sweep with a 25-23 win.

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