Pennridge sweeps Upper Dublin in District 1-AAA second round

EAST ROCKHILL — It was literally a shot to the heart. Taking a volleyball to the chest is something nobody every wants to feel. When it happen on back-to-back points it was the Pennridge girls volleyball team’s display of complete control and Upper Dublin’s dream of an upset fading fast.

The Flying Cardinals left the court Thursday heart broken as their season came to an end after a 3-0 (25-16, 25-13, 25-19) loss to the top-seeded Rams in the second round of the District 1-AAA tournament.

Adrenaline allowed the Cardinals (14-5 overall) to carry a 7-4 lead in the opening set before the Rams reeled off 11 of the next 15 points and closed with a convincing double-digit downing of the 16 seed. The Rams run their overall record to 16-0 and face Downingtown West or Unionville in the quarterfinals Tuesday.

“I think we were relaxed,’ Rams coach Zech States said. “In the very beginning we had a slow start, but that’s just us. We have to overcome that, but once we get moving and get sweating, we settle down and play a good game.’

Once the Rams got rolling, they refused to even tap the break. The swings kept coming from all over the floor, but no one brought more ferocity to her swing than Steph Judkins. She led the way with 11 kills and three blocks while Ariana Pryzblowski added six kills. They know they cannot stay undefeated, and more important at this point, win a District One championship if they are going to let up, and let up they did not.

“The girls deserve every bit of this,’ States said. “They are willing to work hard and they want to keep getting better.’

The Flying Cardinals kept it close in the third set as they refuse to lie down for anyone. All their guts and pride, however, could not contain the Rams. It was 14-14 late in the match before another small rally, led to a Cardinal time out, followed by a longer rally and close out performance.

“Upper Dublin is a good team and they played well,’ States said. “You never know what the ref is going to call and I say play to the whistle. Even taking one game from us forces another game and you never know. Winning in three is huge.’

Red will continue to seep through their dark green jersey in the shape of a bull’s eye on their back. The Rams are playing in unchartered territory for this program as the top seed in the tourney. Though the regular season seems to have prepared them for the postseason — the Rams were loose from the first serve to the last point.

“We were really excited, especially having the home advantage,’ senior libero Kelly Bergen said. “We have been working hard. We know we have a target on our back. We just have to stay focused.’

Besides last year’s quick 3-0 exit in the opening round, the most varsity experience come in the shape of their libero and their coach. Bergen has tasted plenty of postseason experience, playing the last few seasons at Lansdale Catholic where they made deep run in states in 2013. States, the coach not the tourney, took his own Pennridge boys team to the promise land during his playing days not too long ago.

“Experience really does (help),’ Bergen said. “This is really good for us, as Pennridge, to work together for this. We have to be ready for Tuesday.’

“You don’t want to look back and say only if we tried harder,’ States said. “It’s about now, for the seniors especially. It’s about winning every game. The sky is the limit.’

Now, the Rams hope to bring it all together and experience postseason bliss together.

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