Thomas McKinney will remember his team’s match against Central Bucks East this season.
The Pennridge senior saw it as a turning point, or better yet, a “wake-up call.”
“We were up two sets, and they ended up beating us,” recalled McKinney. “It was one of our first losses in the league. We didn’t know how to cope with it.
“But it turned out to help us. We all stopped and realized what we needed to do.”
The Rams battered their way through the league, losing only to perennial power Dock Mennonite and District 11 stronghold Parkland along the way to compile a 13-3 mark.
Yet, being a dominant force isn’t new to Pennridge. The Rams have been in the semifinals 14 times and have captured eight district titles. It’s always been about peaking at the right time, and the Rams are optimistic they’re doing that again this season.
The Rams entered the semifinals of the District One Class 3A tournament Tuesday evening as the No. 2 seed and blanked No. 6 William Tennent, 3-0. The victory placed them back into the finals against No.5 seed Upper Dublin, which upset top seed Haverford, for the title Thursday at Bensalem. The Rams lost to Neshaminy in the final last year, and they won the title in the 2021 season.
Against Tennent, junior setter Evan Jalosinki had 37 assists and five digs; junior outside hitter Jude Rotondo had 18 kills, six digs, and four aces; and McKinney had eight kills, 10 digs and two blocks.
With McKinney as the lone senior starter returning, one might expect the bar to be slightly lower this season.
However, not at Pennridge.
“Coming into the season, our expectations were high,” said head coach Dave Childs. “We have a club with a lot of juniors, but we are a fairly young team. We have a freshman, a sophomore and two seniors starting with our juniors.”
Along with McKinney, Rotondo and Jalosinski have been steady performers and freshman outside hitter Logan Jalosinski has been a pleasant surprise.
Childs stated that the club has experienced some inconsistencies, and like McKinney, he believed they helped the team.
“We had some ups and downs,” he said. “It hasn’t been all uphill for us. Lately, we didn’t play well against Neshaminy (in a quarterfinal game), but we managed to pull it together.”
Their recent 3-1 (25-18, 25-22, 21-25, 29-27) win over Neshaminy was a revenge game from last year’s final. The Rams captured the first two games, and battled to win the match.
The game certainly can be a motivator for the Rams in the near future.
“After the loss in the finals to them last year, we really wanted this match,” added McKinney. “We were very motivated, and this game can help us. We really bonded together well on this team. There are no issues, and our new guys are playing like veterans out there.”
Childs is confident his club still has some road left to travel this season. Getting back to the championship game is a big step. The Rams advanced to the state semifinals last season.
“There are plenty of guys who were on this team that lost in the district game last year,” he said. “They know the feeling, and they believe they can go far this season.”