Upper Dublin claims first-ever District 1 title, outlasts Pennridge in 5 sets in 3A final

BENSALEM >> Terrell Turner knew what this Upper Dublin boys volleyball team could accomplish.

In a back-and-forth thriller Friday night at Bensalem, the Cardinals reached their potential, claiming the program’s first-ever District 1 championship by rallying from a set down and outlasting Pennridge to win the Class 3A final in five sets 24-26, 25-21, 24-26, 29-27, 17-15.

“I told the guys we’re going to make history this year and we did,” Turner said. “It feels amazing.”

Upper Dublin’s Dominick Plaku (10) raises the District 1-3A championship trophy surrounding by teammates as the Cardinals celebrate aftet their five-set victory over Pennride in the final on Thursday, May 25, 2023 at Bensalem. (Mike Cabrey/MediaNews Group)

After running off the final three points of the third set to go up 2-1 in the match, the second-seeded Rams led for most of the fourth and were ahead 23-21 following a Jude Rotondo kill.

But No. 5 Upper Dublin responded with a three-point burst to go up 24-23, eventually winning on its fifth set point to force a deciding game for the title.

“We lost both games against Pennridge in the regular season so coming out here we really wanted it,” Upper Dublin’s Cory Pendleton said. “I was getting down in the middle sets but then once we started winning that fourth set again I picked it up and I was a whole new man, whole new game in the fifth set.

“That’s just the mentality – you have to pick it up when you’re feeling down.”

Upper Dublin’s Terrell Turner (14) looks to hit the ball over the net against Pennridge during the District 1-3A final on Thursday, May 25, 2023 at Bensalem. (Mike Cabrey/MediaNews Group)

The Cardinals jumped out to a 4-1 advantage and were still up three at 12-9 before Pennridge pulled even at 12 on Rotondo’s kill. The Rams had match point at 14-13 after a Bryce Ammon kill only for a long serve to knot things at 14.

Upper Dublin could not close it out at 15-14 but got another chance at 16-15 and sealed the win when Pennridge could not return the serve.

“The fourth set, we was kind of down but we kept fighting,” Turner said. “The fifth set we came back so I could turn it up and keep us in the game.”

Turner had a team-high 15 kills while collecting nine digs, four blocks and a pair of aces as the Cardinals avenged a loss to Pennridge in the 2021 district final.

“For Terrell, you keep telling him to take his big hits, take his big shots, not being afraid to take those swings,” Upper Dublin coach Paul Choi said. “Him starting as a sophomore, every year he’s gone to states so he’s played at a big stage so I feel like now it’s his time. So, we’re going to ride with Terrell and everything he has to bring.”

Pennridge’s Jude Rotonod (18) looks to put a ahots between Upper Dublin’s Seamus Frayne (16) and Cole Brown (5) during the District 1-3A final on Thursday, May 25, 2023 at Bensalem. (Mike Cabrey/MediaNews Group)

Pendleton posted 10 kills, four digs and two blocks, Gabriel Copley added eight kills and two blocks while Cole Brown had 39 assists and eight digs as the Cardinals pulled off their third straight upset in districts, having knocked off No. 5 Pennsbury in the quarterfinals then top-seeded Haverford in the semis.

“We made a couple of lineup changes going into districts in itself,” Choi said. “We took a look at our side and what we could do better. And as I said with different responsibilities, the kids really didn’t care, they took up and ran with that responsibility. I think those tweaks have made us even better of a team.”

Dominick Plaku had 11 digs and a kill for UD. Landon Kullmann collected six kills, six digs, four aces and a block, Seamus Frayne recorded nine blocks and a kill, Ari Weiner made six digs while Campbell Heckler had four digs and an ace.

Upper Dublin’s Seamus Frayne (16), Dominick Plaku (10) and Terrell Turner (14) celebrate after a point against Pennridge during the District 1-3A final on Thursday, May 25, 2023 at Bensalem. (Mike Cabrey/MediaNews Group)

Rotondo had a match-best 21 kills while Evan Jalosinski dished out 54 assists for Pennridge, which was denied its second district crown in three seasons. Ammon totaled 15 kills and six blocks. Logan Jalosinski had 12 kills and 14 digs with Ty Porter making 11 digs.

“We just didn’t execute offensively,” Rams coach Dave Childs said. “We had too many hitting errors – they forced us into that with the block and stuff but we got to be a little bit more efficient offensively

By reaching the final, both teams had already clinched spots in the PIAA-3A Tournament, which begins Tuesday, June 6. Upper Dublin opens against the District 12 runner-up Northeast while Pennridge faces the District 12 champ La Salle.

We’ve been in this situation before against Pennridge, so it was a nice little I wouldn’t say revenge match but place we’ve been before,” Choi said. “And we knew how close we were before so it was nice to finally be able to check that one off the list and then now we’re into states.”

Pennridge’s Bryce Ammon (32) looks to get a shot past the blocks of Upper Dublin’s Corey Pendleton (24) and Gabriel Copley (7) during the District 1-3A final on Thursday, May 25, 2023 at Bensalem. (Mike Cabrey/MediaNews Group)

William Tennent claimed District 1’s third and final state bid, the No. 6 Panthers outlasting Haverford in five sets. Tennent takes on the District 3 champion in the first round.

A 10-2 run in the opening set gave Pennridge an 16-8 lead but Upper Dublin rallied, pulling even at 22 then finishing a six-point burst to have set point at 24-22. The Rams, however, answered by taking the next four points for a 26-24 win.

“Those ones are tough,” Pendleton said. “You think you’re going to win it there, you’re getting all excited and then you just forget that you still have to finish it out, especially with these tough serves that they have, you have to keep it going, get those passes, make sure you get those hits in otherwise they’re going to come back like they did.”

The Upper Dublin boys volleyball team poses with the District 1 championship trophy after its five-set victory over Pennridge in the Class 3A final on Thursday, May 25, 2023 at Bensalem. (Mike Cabrey/MediaNews Group)

In the second set, the Cardinals grabbed a six-point lead at 17-11 before Pennridge worked its way back to tie it 19. UD, however, took the next four points – Kullmann’s aces making it 23-19 and the Cards held for a 25-21 victory to even the match.

The Cardinals led 19-17 in the third set before a four-point run gave the Rams a 21-19 edge. Upper Dublin regained the advantage at 23-22 and had set point at 24-23 but Pennridge claimed the final three points – a Rotondo putting the Rams up 25-24 with UD sending a ball long to clinch a 26-24 Pennridge win.

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