Coming into the District One Class 2A championship battle against Saint Basil Academy at 19-1, top-seeded New Hope-Solebury hadn’t lost many games this season.
And yet here they were, trailing the No. 2 Panthers, 22-16, in game three of the title tilt Tuesday, Oct. 30 at Upper Dublin.
No problem for the defending D1-2A champion Lions. They simply capped off a three-game sweep of Saint Basil (14-5) with a 9-1 run to capture their third straight District One crown and make states a third time around.
“We come in always wanting to win in three,” stated New Hope-Solebury senior Gwen Vogelsang, who led the champions with 15 kills and 14 assists.
“We haven’t lost many sets this year.
“Knowing that we could lose that set, we all just worked as hard as we could and we showed the audience – and ourselves – that we could win in three.”
While she recorded the final point, Vogelsang had plenty of help from her teammates in sweeping the Panthers.
Sophomore Grace Hanley recorded an ace and forced a pair of hitting errors by the Panthers, helping to ignite the final scoring run that secured the trophy for the Lions.
“Serving’s a really big thing for our team,” added Vogelsang. “A lot of our practices are about serving and our coach always says, ‘If you can serve, you can win.’”
Hanley has stepped up since the beginning of season, acting as the team’s setter and providing Vogelsang with an opportunity to play both positions in her final year for the Blue and Gold.
Defensively, New Hope allowed just a few serves to touch the floor in this one. That’s all thanks to the back line, anchored by junior libero Bella Fleischacker, who led her team with 21 digs. Fleischacker had help from Hanley, who came through with 15 assists and from senior Carina Rozycki, who added nine digs.
“It’s all about trust between us on the back row,” explained Fleischacker. “We’re going to do whatever we can to get the ball up – sacrificing our bodies; that’s just a part of playing defense.”
While Vogelsang led the final run with three kills, she had help from classmate Marina Chuma (three blocks, three kills), who had a kill of her own and junior Sarah Deussing, who crossed the court with a kill that put New Hope on top 24-23 in game three.
Junior Katie Costello played a key role in New Hope’s championship win, recording 13 kills on the night. Costello has been hitting outside since her freshman year and Vogelsang has been the team’s setter since her sophomore year so the duo has plenty of playing time together.
“I think we’ve just clicked really well this year,” said Vogelsang. “We both play at East Coast Power and it’s really helped us be where we’re at today.”
In game one, it was back-to-back kills by Costello that gave the Lions their first lead at 11-9, after trailing earlier in the first set, 5-2 and 8-5.
“She (Costello) is definitely our go-to hitter,” said Fleischacker. “She’s the most dedicated athlete this team has.
“We can always count on her; she’s a smart hitter and a power hitter – she has it all.”
While an ensuing kill by Chuma put New Hope up 13-10 midway through the opening set, Saint Basil tied it at 14 then went ahead 18-17 on an ace by Megan McMonagle.
However, the Lions closed out a 25-21 triumph in the first game, outscoring the Panthers 8-3 the rest of the way. Deussing added a pair of kills to the effort while sophomore Allison Somers added an ace that put New Hope on top, 20-18. Chuma came through with a kill and two blocks in the winning run and tallied the decisive point, earning the Lions the four-point win.
While the second set saw the Lions trailing 8-7 and 9-8, the champs rallied with a 12-2 scoring run that was capped by yet another kill by Costello. Hanley recorded the winning point in game two, pushing the ball over the net with a nice touch.
“It doesn’t matter how far we’re down, we never play a game thinking, ‘Oh, it’s over for us; we’ll just get them in the next set,’” explained Fleischacker.
“We always stay motivated. We know that no matter how far down we get, we’ll always bring it back and we got it.”
With a change in the PIAA postseason format, New Hope no longer has to top the District 11 champ to get to states. For the past two years, the Lions swept Panther Valley in a PIAA regional title game.
This year, New Hope goes right to states. The PIAA Class 2A tournament begins Tuesday, Nov. 6 when the Lions face off against the District 12 champion at a place and time that is to be determined.
Last year in states, New Hope swept D12 runner-up Bishop McDevitt before falling in five games to D6 runner-up West Shamokin.