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Girls volleyball: New Hope paves a path to victory in the SOL


Playing for the first time in the Suburban One League (SOL), the New Hope-Solebury girls volleyball team is a work in progress.

Just the fact that the Lions have a season in which to play is fortunate, says second-year head coach Chris Marchok.

Of course, with the worldwide outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, spring sports were canceled around the region and the nation, almost universally.

“The softball season got ripped away from us in the spring so the fact that we’ve been able to be out practicing and now, we’ve had three matches in which to play in is a blessing,” said Marchok, who guides the New Hope-Solebury varsity softball team.

“I tell the girls all the time to treasure the day.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s awesome.”

Still, there’s volleyball to play this fall in New Hope, and beyond.

After falling in straight sets to 2019 District One 4A qualifier Plymouth-Whitemarsh in their season-opener, the Lions took Pennridge to five games then swept William Tennent 3-0 Sept. 25 on the Panthers’ home court.

After outpacing Tennent 25-17 and 25-18 in the first two sets, New Hope fell behind 10-4 early on in the third game. The Lions then rallied with a 12-1 scoring spurt to go ahead 16-11, though the Panthers answered with a run of their own to draw within a pair at 21-19. To its credit, New Hope closed out the final set – and the match – with a 25-22 triumph in game three.

“We lost our first match at P-W. We had a heck of a battle in our second game against Pennridge and in our third match, we were able to beat William Tennent so I’m thrilled with how the girls are doing,” the coach commented.

The Lions – who have played all their games on the road thus far – are led by seniors Grace Hanly, opposite Cooper Sorin and Alison Somers, the starting libero.

“They are three high-caliber, high-energy, giving, generous kids who are very serious about volleyball,” commented Marchok.

“All three have this organic, natural ability to lead.”

New Hope took the court for the first time this season without the services of outside hitter Sarah Deussing and libero Bella Fleischacker.

First-year varsity starters include freshman Anna Leasure and sophomore Lilly Kraemer. Both are playing in the middle.

“They are both energetic and eager to learn; they’ve just been fantastic in their coach-ability.”

The duo is backing up starter Maria “Ri-Ri” D’Agostino, a junior who also happens to be the starting pitcher for the Lions’ softball team.

“I love the fact that I get to see her compete in the fall,” said Marchok. “She’s a really, really good kid – high-quality, good-hearted, a competitor – good stuff.”

Sophomore Chloe McMillen is also playing in the middle and junior Emma Fitzsimmons is positioned at opposite.

Junior Amy Tao is back at her natural position on the outside after a year playing in the middle.

Six-foot sophomore Mia Chuma – who gets a majority of the kills for the Lions – is also playing on the outside. Chuma led the Lions in kills in last year’s District One 2A finale.

“Mia Chuma is incredibly talented and she’s also incredibly leadership-oriented,” said Marchok.

“She leads without any arrogance and without any airs. This kid is just a born leader and I have a number of good leaders on this team.”

Hanly is the setter. But she’s also a good blocker.

Defensive specialists for the team include senior Somers, junior Alex Ren, sophomore Alma Ren along with Aubrey Turner, a freshman.

“I know she’s just a freshman but I felt she could handle the pressure and she bore that out,” commented Marchok.

“I put her out on the court and her attitude was ‘let’s go get ‘em.’

“We have a number of freshmen who are really competing on the court this year.

“I don’t have a single issue with any of these girls; these are wonderful kids to work with.”

In their second match of the season against Pennridge, New Hope trailed the Rams 11-2 in the first set.

“In a game to 25, that’s usually it,” commented Marchok. “But our kids didn’t quit and that’s a testament to not only our three senior leaders but also the Mia Chumas of the world and the Amy Taos of the world.

“We wound up winning the first set, 25-22.”

Tied at two games apiece, New Hope trailed Pennridge 14-7 then closed the deficit to single digits before dropping the 15-point match with the Rams in five sets.

“It was awesome to see our kids compete against a program like Pennridge the way they did,” said Marchok.

“Those five-set matches are the ones that really build character.”

Last year, the Lions fell in five sets to perennial adversary Saint Basil’s Academy in the District One Class 2A finale. But prior to that, New Hope won three consecutive District One crowns.

As anyone can imagine, this volleyball season was in doubt for a few months prior to the current campaign. At the last minute, the PIAA and the SOL voted in favor of fall sports.

However, there are protocols to be followed: temperatures are taken every day and there are forms to fill out regarding medical conditions and any possible Covid-19 contact. Masks must be worn in the gym by anyone not competing or participating in practice.

“It’s been tough on us all but these kids have shown they’ve got what it takes,” said Marchok.

Despite the current health crisis and a brand new league with tougher competition, the Lions look like they won’t have any problem paving a path to victory in the SOL.

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