Pennridge swept by Hempfield in PIAA AAA 1st round

SHILLINGTON — The 2014 Pennridge girls volleyball season was as sweet as candy. But it also came with the same sugar high those delectable treats offer. And the crash.

The same symptoms associated with a sugar crash could be associated with the Rams, the once undefeated top seed in District 1, now the fourth-seed out of the district in the PIAA Class AAA tournament. The Rams were tired, the Rams were irritated, and it all led to a 3-0 (25-13, 25-11, 25-21) sweep at the hands of Hempfield on Tuesday at Governor Mifflin.

“It had been so long since Pennridge has gotten this far,’ Rams second year coach Zech States said. “This, at least for the younger girls, is a learning experience.’

The Black Knights, champions of District 3, wasted little time setting the tone and killing the Rams’ confidence.

An 8-1 hole forced the Rams (17-3) to work extra hard to just make a game of their first state game in an unknown amount of years. The 25-13 loss in the first game was devastating for the girls who lost nine of their last 11 games. Prior to this rough stretch they had won 26 of the 27 games.

“We think we can get back into the game, but on the court it can be really tough,’ senior libero Kelly Bergen said of the slow start. “Hempfield hitters hit straight into the ground.’

“I did not expect this season,’ Bergen, who transferred from Lansdale Catholic for her senior year. “I am really proud of all these girls. I am really happy we made it here.’

The Rams will never forget the first taste of success and its addicting quality. The reason the Rams put together such a strong run was because of their desire for more. They never stopped working hard, even when the Knights jumped out to commanding control in game two.

While the second game stood around a four-point gap at 14-10, the Knights junior libero Brie Tankesley served off 10 consecutive points to clinch the game.

“We knew coming into the game we had to serve tough,’ States said. “They served us off the court. Hempfield is a great team. We had our work cut out for us.’

The Rams held a 8-7 lead in the third game before the Black Knights took over. As the Rams sensed the season was coming to an end, States gave the underclassmen a chance to take the floor for the PIAA experience. With the Rams out of rotation they fought to a 22-20 score before falling in three games. But that was the fight the Rams were used to seeing all season.

“Tonight is a tough loss, but we are really proud,’ Bergen, who will continue her volleyball career at Holy Family University, said. “Overall we had a phenomenal season.

The Rams fully expect the taste of victory to linger on their tongues throughout the offseason.

While they will lose important players such as Bergen, senior setter Megan Keefe (10 assists), and hitter Lauren Drugotch (five kills), the Rams do not expect to be a one-year wonder. With outside hitter Steph Judkins (five kills) returning for her junior season, the girls plan on taking another bite into postseason play.

“We can compete with these top teams,’ States said. “We have set the standard a little higher next year and try to get further.’

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