Central Bucks East senior setter and tri-captain Anna Ritter described the competitive nature of the Suburban One League Continental Conference, along with the rivalry within the school district between the Patriots and Central Bucks South.
“We play club (volleyball) with them, we’re all friends with one another, so we know they won’t give up on a ball,” Ritter said. “So even if (we’re ahead) 19-11, they’re not going to stop playing, so we just have to be ready for that.”
Already up two sets to none Friday afternoon, the Patriots had an eight-point lead in the third set and were six points away from a home sweep of the Titans.
Then the Titans tapped into their resilient, never-say-die approach, rallied for nine straight points and eventually won that third set to force a fourth set.
The Patriots responded, however, with their own collective gut-check in that tightly contested fourth set and pulled out a 3-1 victory (25-20, 25-21, 26-28, 26-24).
With extra points beyond the typical 25 to decide the last two sets of this match, it was vintage SOL Continental volleyball.
East led 19-11 in the third set, when South went on a nine-point streak for a 20-19 lead. South staved off a match point at 26-25, as senior setter Lizzie Shirley set up a kill by sophomore outside hitter Millie Grove.
After a solo block by South senior middle hitter Allie Burke for a one-point advantage, Grove again got the set-clinching kill, as South won the third set, 28-26.
“It’s really all about energy for our team,” Burke said. “We’ll feed off even a missed serve by (our opponent), and we’ll use that and roll with it.”
After that set, East needed to regroup.
“... We thought we had (the match) in the bag, and when South came back and showed us what we were in for, in the third set, and they took it from us, we realized we needed to step it up,” said East senior libero and tri-captain Morgan D’Angelo, who finished with 20 digs and two aces.
Despite East’s resolve ahead of the fourth set, South still was a point away from forcing a decisive fifth set with a 24-23 advantage, but East capitalized on a service error and scored the last three points of the match – capped by a quick-reflex tip over the net by Ritter, as two other teammates also had converged on the ball.
Ritter, who finished with a team-high 37 assists, plus 16 digs and three aces.
For the seniors, winning the first head-to-head matchup was satisfying, with both teams scheduled to meet again 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, at South.
“We wanted to show out for this match, and it hyped us up to play as a team,” said East senior outside hitter and tri-captain Vivien Agassi, who finished with a team-high 13 kills – including the point that gave East a 25-24 lead – along with a block and 11 digs. “Overall, we were pumped for this match, and we wanted to beat a (district) rival.”
Until then, South will focus on avoiding the two-sets-to-none predicament.
“We just have to start strong next time and to play the best we can,” said Shirley, a team captain who finished with a match-high 45 assists, plus 11 digs and two kills. “... We know we can do it.”
“The past two matches, we finally show up for a match in the third (set), and it’s just too late,” said Burke, who finished with 11 kills and four blocks. “We can’t just turn it on, we have to be ready right away.”