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Boys volleyball: CR North advances to next round of playoffs with 3-1 win over Central Bucks East


Council Rock North had its moments last year. But on May 16, 2023, after sneaking into the District One Class 3A boys volleyball playoffs as the 12 seed, the Indians were bounced by fifth-seeded Upper Dublin in the first round, who went on to win the tournament.

As the higher seed in this year’s opening round, things went a bit differently for North Tuesday night. Led by the big-hitting trio of Hunter Klein, Keertan Palayam and Scott Donnelly, the No. 7 Indians prevailed against No. 10 Central Bucks East 3-1.

“It’s exciting,” Donnelly said. “The whole team is motivated.”

It wasn’t the easiest of wins. A tough opponent and shockingly loud “Let’s go East” chants echoing through North’s gymnasium walls, easily discernible from the hoorahs on the Indians’ side, will do that.

CR North won the first set pretty handily. But after a 25-14 win, the Patriots answered with a 26-24 win of their own. The Indians then won the next sets 25-22 apiece.

The trio mentioned above is a big reason why the Indians are heading to the next round. When the ball headed in one of their directions, you could expect to hear a thunderclap moments after, whether it’s the ball hitting the ground or a blocker. Simply put, they hit the ball with force. Teams know that. They prepare for that. But it’s still so difficult to stop them.

“It draws the blockers,” Donnelly said on the three of them sharing the court. “When all three of us are out there, it makes it easier for us to hit. All the blockers are aware of us, so it’s harder for them to close.”

Donnelly’s 6-foot-4 height and exceedingly long arms were on display throughout the entirety of the game. As much as he spiked kills into the hardwood on offense, he equally blocked his opponent’s attempts. From the stands, it looked as if his arms warped over the net.

“Most of my blocks come from swing blocks,” Donnelly said. “If they don’t get a good pass, they have to set it high … I get higher on swing blocks than normal blocks, so it’s easier for me.”

Head coach Larry Tiankee was one step ahead in this matchup. Volleyball is “like chess,” he said. He’s constantly moving his players – his chess pieces – around. When the opposing defense starts picking up on the trends of the Indians’ offense, leading to an offensive advantage of their own, he’s quick to make an adjustment. And that doesn’t always mean setting the ball to your hardest hitter and letting them spike it down the team’s throat.

“What we need to do is pull their defense apart,” Tiankee said. “We try to throw everybody off.”

Suffice it to say, what Tiankee is referencing was evident with an explanation. Oftentimes, you would see a setter quickly hit the ball over the net on the second hit – and it would just fall in between the defense.

CR North is set to face second-seeded Pennridge this Thursday. The Indians will have their hands full, but Tiankee and his players are confident.

“We’re going to be prepared. We have one full day of practice,” Tiankee said. “Their players, our players … we’re going to match up. It’s going to be who really wants it and who puts the effort in.”

“I think we’ll go far,” Donnelly added.

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