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Tennent holding on to playoff hopes


Last year, William Tennent finished third in the District One 3A boys volleyball tournament and earned a berth in states. This year, however after returning only two starters from the state-qualifying team, the Panthers are just hoping to earn a ticket to the D1 dance.

After last week’s victory over Neshaminy, ensuing loss to top-ranked Pennsbury and Monday’s sweep of Cheltenham, Tennent was holding steady at No. 10 in the district’s Class 3A rankings. The top 12 teams qualify for the district tournament.

Trailing Haverford in last season’s third-place D1 playback, the Panthers rebounded with 25-10 and 15-11 triumphs. Senior opposite Connor Tucholski led Tennent with 18 kills in the historic matchup.

Tucholski plays for Eastern University now however and a bunch of other players graduated including all-state selection Anthony Buono. Last year’s libero, Buono was the Panthers’ MVP. Outside hitter John Ellis, among four players nominated All-Suburban One League (SOL) in 2023 and setter Nick Buono also departed the ranks.

“We had a lot of seniors leave last year so we have younger kids filling in,” said current senior co-captain David Dziekonski. “And we’ve had some injuries – our setter was out the first half of the season. Our middle hitter hurt his knee and now his ankle, and I was out for a couple weeks.”

Still, Tennent tipped off its current campaign by winning four of its first five matchups including victories over SOL rivals Council Rock South, Abington, Neshaminy and Cheltenham. The Galloping Ghosts exacted a measure of revenge, however, on April 25 when, after trailing the Panthers 2-0, they came back and won the last three games.

“It was a big loss for our season but hopefully next week we can get back against (Council Rock) North,” stated Tennent senior co-captain Sean Stewart. “It’s a big game for us.”

CR North defeated the Panthers 3-2 in a hotly contest SOL matchup on April 16 in enemy territory and the two teams squared off again Wednesday, May 8 in Warminster (results not available at press time).

“(The first match) was back and forth but we were missing two of our key players,” added Stewart. “David was one of them so I feel like having him back again will be a big advantage.”

“We have younger guys playing up with us and a lot of guys filling in for injuries who don’t have a lot of experience. It’s an up and down season. Hopefully, we get control of it next week.”

Facing the top-ranked Falcons May 2 at home, Tennent, after dropping a close one in the opening set, had a 10-7 lead on Pennsbury in game two only to see the opponent notch five consecutive points to go up 12-10 and go on to a 25-19 triumph.

“It was just a loss of focus,” said Dziekonski. “Our passing game fell apart and that made the setting location suffer so we couldn’t get good rips.”

The Falcons won the third set going away. Time and again, Pennsbury blocked balls at the net to negate potential kills for the Panthers.

“They’re big,” added Dziekonski. “You gotta swing sharp angles of just off their hands, try to get (kills) that way.”

“Or use tempo to your advantage, which is tough because they serve well,” added head coach Jim Creighton. “They’ll keep you off the net with their serve.

“They’re just a well-rounded team.”

Tennent opened its SOL season March 21 at Council Rock South with a 3-0 sweep and the Panthers blanked the Golden Hawks April 18 on their home court. Tennent also swept the season series with Neshaminy, blanking the visitors 3-0 at home and bouncing back from an early 1-0 deficit to win 3-1 April 30 in Langhorne.

Dziekonski led the way to the comeback win with 20 kills, three aces and a block. Stewart did his part with 10 kills, four aces and a dozen digs.

Senior Eric Korchuk added six kills and a pair of blocks, junior Andrew Shostak recorded four kills, a pair of aces and two blocks, junior Tristan Ziegler contributed 34 assists, an ace, a block and nine digs while sophomore Alex Pyavka chipped in with 16 digs.

Dziekonski was named All-SOL and All-District One last year so it’s no surprise that he’s contributed to the Panthers’ cause in a big way this season with more than 100 kills in eight matches. Creighton says Stewart who leads the team with over 120 kills in 13 pairings, is likely the most improved player on the current squad.

“He was our second outside (hitter) last year and has made a lot of progress this year,” commented Creighton. “He’s becoming a primary option right now; he’s scoring a lot of points for us and he’s always good.”

Korchuk, one of three players who returned to the lineup with varsity experience, also has more than 100 kills and he led the team with a half dozen vs. the Falcons.

On the injury front, Ziegler was missing from the lineup the first half of the season while Dziekonski missed a big chunk in the middle of the current campaign.

“We’ve lost games that are depleting our ranking just because our league is so close and the margins are so small,” explained Creighton. “If one team is missing one or two players, it really changes things.

Adding to the trauma, senior Peter Piotrowski went down with an ankle injury against Pennsbury.

“Realistically, we haven’t beaten many quality opponents: we’ve lost to (Council Rock) North, we’ve lost to Abington.

“Not to make excuses but we haven’t had our full roster. We were trying to find ways to win those games but we were not successful.”

Seeding for the upcoming District One tournament is set for May 9. Postseason play begins May 14 on the home court of the higher seed.

“We’re just trying to get everybody healthy so we can make a playoff run,” explained Creighton.

“We understand we’ll be a very low seed if we sneak in. Right now, we’re just trying to get healthy and upset somebody.”

Last year, the Panthers upset Bensalem in a second-round District One pairing to earn a D1 semifinal berth. This season, the district semifinal is slated to be held May 21 at William Tennent.

Whether the Panthers are one of the combatants in the contest remains to be seen.

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