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Souderton rallies past Council Rock North


The way visiting Souderton played at Council Rock North Sept. 1, you’d have thought the duel was a district playoff pairing instead of an early season non-league matchup.

Trailing 2-0, Souderton came all the way back, even taking the rubber match 15-12, after trailing the final set 7-2.

“We have a lot of strong fighters who will continue to go in and out,” explained Souderton senior Kay Guessford, “and we keep fighting until we have nothing left to give.”

Souderton may have won this match in four sets if not for a late-game ruling that didn’t go its way. Leading game two 24-22, Guessford launched a serve that seemingly caught the inside of the back line for what would have been an ace and the winning point. The line judge ruled the ball out, however, and the Rock went on to a 26-24 victory and a two-set lead.

Instead of bemoaning the ruling, Souderton used it as motivation to come back and win 3-2.

“That fires us up every single time, so we just had to keep ourselves cool,” added Guessford. “Coach Corinne (Watson) does a great job of keeping us all under control. Sometimes, we get a little wild because we all just wanna win.”

Souderton seemed to dictate the play in the next two sets. The visitors got off to a 15-4 lead in game three, even expanding that edge to 17-5. While the Rock trimmed the opponent’s lead down to five points, thanks to a 9-2 Rock run ignited by four kills by CR North co-captain Kaitlyn Liedl, Souderton closed the game out with a 6-2 string that cemented a 25-16 triumph.

Earlier, CR North had gotten off to a good start with a 25-18 victory in the opening set before taking game two to go up, 2-nil.

“Just because you’re up, 2-0 means nothing,” stated Rock North head coach Joe Schweitzer. “2-0 is still 0-0 and you have to learn how to play every set after that like it’s 0-0.

“You still have to go out there and play. You have to put the pressure on the other team, not let them put the pressure on you.”

The coach saw his team’s energy fall off in the next two sets.

“Our level of intensity in the first two sets was very good. We were playing really strong; we were in it,” added Schweitzer. In the third set, our mental energy came down a little bit while theirs went up.

“From there, we were never able to match their level of mental energy.”

Set four was a back-and-fourth affair in the beginning until Soudy used an 8-2 run to go up 17-11. Rock middle hitter Addison Zarillo came up with a kill after a CR North timeout and Liedl found the back line on a late kill, though none of that would stop the visitors from tying the match at two sets apiece with a 25-17 triumph.

Rock launched out of the gate quickly in the final set, posting a 7-2 early edge, thanks to a pair of hits by Zarillo, a kill by opposite Caitlyn Mahle, an ace by libero Emma McNulty and a kill by outside hitter Olivia Szymkiewicz, a 5-11 sophomore.

Souderton regrouped quickly however, tying the set at 7 and again at 9-all, then taking control with a 5-2 run, capped off with an ace by Lauren Vince. Madison Campbell came up with a late block for the Rock but McKenna Murawski forced a final hitting error by North to send the home team into the locker room with a 3-2 loss.

“In the last set, we had a couple of close calls that went against us, for good or for bad, but it kind of hurt (our) mojo,” Schweitzer said. “It took a little time to get that back.”

“The communication stopped and then we kept getting beat to the line,” Liedl added. “So we switched our rotations a little but then everyone just got frazzled.”

Despite the loss, the CR North co-captain thinks the match with Souderton is something to build upon.

“It’s good practice to start this early against such good competition,” she said.

Szymkiewicz led the offensive effort for North with 14 kills and four aces. On defense, she came up with five digs. Liedl chipped in with 13 kills, four aces and 23 digs. Zarillo contributed with a dozen kills and an ace. Setter Sarah McCafferty came through with 31 assists and 12 digs. McNulty pitched in 23 digs, three aces and six assists. Defensive specialist Rylee Desruisseau did her part with 11 digs. Mahle posted a pair of kills and the only solo block for her team in the contest while assisting on two others.

CR North improved to 3-1 overall after defeating SOL National foe Pennsbury 3-2 Tuesday. Rock opened the season with wins over American League foe Upper Dublin and Central League rival Ridley.

For Souderton, Murawski sparked the visitors’ offense with 18 kills and seven aces, along with 17 digs on defense. Guessford pitched in with 14 kills, 1 ace, 11 digs and a block. Margaret Donnelly contributed with 23 assists, eight digs and two blocks. Zoe Folk added four assists, an ace and 27 digs while Vince came through with seven kills, three aces, 11 digs, a block and an assist.

Souderton pushed its record to 4-1 overall with a 3-1 win over SOL Continental rival CB East Tuesday. Soudy also has wins over Del Val League foe Academy Park and SOL Continental foe North Penn, along with a loss to Catholic Academies League contender Mount Saint Joseph.

The last time Soudy made it into districts was 2018. North made districts that year and three years after that, making it to the District One Class 4A finals in 2020 and 2021.

No postseason for the Rock last year, however. The girls think they have the horses to get there this season.

Szymkiewicz and senior Elizabeth Butler are both 5-11 outside hitters that pose a threat at the net. Campbell and Mahle are also imposing their will up front.

“Caitlyn Mahle and Madison Campbell are both helping us with big blocks in the middle,” stated Liedl. “We got some height this year and we’re looking to use it to the best of our ability.”

@stevesherman222 on Twitter

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