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Pennridge Girls volleyball triumphs over gritty CB West

The Pennridge girls volleyball team started the 2020 campaign 1-0.
But Central Bucks West made the Rams work for it.
Host Pennridge prevailed in straight games, 25-20, 25-18 and 25-20, in Monday’s Suburban One League Continental Conference opener.
It was the first match of the season for each team, due to shortened schedules owing to COVID-19. 
Pennridge got off to a fast start, putting up an 8-0 lead in the first game before the Bucks were able to score a point. West evened it up at 18-18 to set up a race for the finish.
“We got off to an early lead and that gave us confidence, but I think sometimes when we get ahead early we think we can slack off a little bit,” Pennridge junior outside hitter Allison Saalfrank said. “We started to struggle a little bit and we had to get our heads back in the game. We had to pick each other up, get the next point and move on.
“We weren’t able to finish our club season (due to shelter in place) so it was fun just to be able to play again.”
The Rams reached the second round of the District One Class 4A tournament last season.
“Our team’s biggest goal this year is to make it farther than we did last year,” Saalfrank said. “Our goal is to go all the way to states. It’s hard to do but we’re determined to get there and to work hard to get there.”
Realignment in the SOL put these two teams in the same conference. Previously, Pennridge had been in the American while CB West was in the National.
“West made things very hard on us,” Pennridge coach Brandon Johnson said. “They had some film from last year and they made some adjustments to us. We weren’t mentally prepared enough to make changes back.
“We kind of showed up and didn’t make the changes that were necessary to compete well and that’s a credit to West. They did everything well and we did not. They almost pulled it out from under us so we need to do a better job moving forward. But it’s always good to get a ‘W’ and we’re excited for the season because of the kids we have.
“They’re an immensely strong group. They didn’t show that in this match, but they’ll improve on that. There’s a first time for everything. They love the game and this is one of the hardest working groups I’ve ever had.”
The SOL has allowed each school to establish its own COVID-19 policies. At Pennridge, the maximum number of people allowed in the gym is 25.
“Volleyball is a game of momentum and the crowd really helps with that,” CB West senior Maggie McCusker said. “It’s tough to play in a quiet gym, and not even our own gym, so we had to create that energy ourselves.
“They took an early lead and that hurt us in the beginning but I think we got right back in there with them. We stayed with them a good amount and that really gives me hope for the season.
“We’ve got a lot of room for improvement. We’ve got a really young group. We have four freshmen on the team and three of them are starting, so we need to gain some experience.
“This was a hard team for us to have as our first match.”
CB West coach Todd Miller agreed.
“We played pretty decent,” he said. “We knew Pennridge was good and for us to open up the season with them was tough. We made mistakes that cost us. We let points go in runs and we’ve got to stop that from happening, but I really think if we work harder and do a few things better, we’ve got a good shot at having a good year.”