Bucks County Herald

Rams take two from Upper Dublin

DAVID CAMPBELL

Boys' water polo:

It wasn’t close the first time Pennridge and Upper Dublin met in Fort Washington on Sept. 12; it wasn’t close for the rematch in East Rockhill last Thursday.

The Rams won big both times.

“We did pretty well,” senior captain Josh Yardley said. “I was stopping them on defense. First quarter, I don’t think they scored a goal. We just played really good defense and got back and countered their counterattacks.”

Pennridge rode a 6-0 first quarter to a 19-9 victory. Yardley had a hat trick at the end of the first seven minutes; Ethan Lionetti tallied a pair.

“We really wanted to rotate through some players this game,” senior captain Rob Pritz said, “and we did and it worked really well.”

The Rams led 9-2 at the half. They beat the Cardinals, 21-12, in mid-September.

“At this point of the season,” second-year head coach Dave Apple said, “we’ve started to jell and work together.”

The triumph was Pennridge’s third in a row. The Rams placed third in Flight 2 in the Beast of the East tournament at Governor Mifflin on Sept. 22 and 23. The Rams nearly qualified for Flight 1 (teams that went 2-0 on the first day of the tourney); however, Pennridge was nipped by Gonzaga, 13-12, in three OTs.

Pritz called the setback “one of the best games we’ve played all season.”

The Rams have been on a roller-coaster of runs. They started the season at 0-3, won their next five and then lost the two after that. Pennridge is 11-6 overall and 10-1 in the Eastern Conference as it looks to build momentum for the conference championships, which will determine which teams go to states, on Oct. 21.

“We’re all playing together,” Pritz said. “We’re all equally talented. I mean, the whole bench is. We have a good group of guys.”

The Rams spread the wealth offensively. Seven Rams scored last Thursday. Yardley, Lionetti and Kevin Jones each netted four goals. James Sandt and Joe Whalen each added two, while Pritz and Aiden Bunn each contributed one. Lionetti and Pritz each also had a pair of assists.

Sandt’s seven steals led Pennridge. Jones and Alijah Santangelo each made five steals. Bunn and Yardley each had four steals; Lionetti had three. Santangelo, the Rams’ goalie, was credited with 10 blocks.

“There’s no one on the team who is not a threat,” Apple said.

“Everybody in the pool,” Apple continued, “has just as much reason to be there as anyone else.”

That doesn’t mean Pennridge doesn’t have its go-to guys at crunch time, though.

“[Yardley] is the best guy on the team,” Pritz said. “He’s going far in polo. We’ve been playing together forever. All the guys have been playing together forever.

“It’s looking really good,” Pritz added.

“During the preseason,” Yardley chimed in, “we just all got into the team mentality. Everyone just bought into the team mentality.”

For the second time this year, the Rams edged a tough La Salle College bunch on Friday. Pennridge prevailed, 14-13. La Salle led 9-8 after three. Bunn scored four goals; Lionetti had three. Jones and Whalen each managed two goals, while Yardley, Pritz and Sandt each dumped in one. Santangelo was steady in goal with 15 blocks.

The Rams also nipped the Explorers, 17-16, on the second day of the Beast of the East.

On Tuesday, Pennridge romped over Wissahickon, 21-11. The Rams led 12-5 at the half behind Yardley’s four goals, Whalen’s three and Jones’ two.

“The team’s really shaping up well,” Pritz said. “We’ve all played together for a while. Our [junior] year, we all played at states together.”

Indeed, Pennridge qualified for states a year ago for only the second time in program history. The Rams were eighth. A return visit may be in the cards.

“We’re just looking really good,” Pritz repeated.

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Girls' water polo

Pennridge lost at Upper Dublin, 17-10, on Sept. 12.

The Rams avenged that setback at home last Thursday with an 8-5 victory over the Cardinals; however, the talk postgame was more about Pennridge’s Flight 2 championship in the Beast of the East tournament at Governor Mifflin on Sept. 23. The Rams beat North Allegheny, 8-7, in overtime for the title.

“We were really happy,” senior captain Brooke Pritz said. “We expected to be in Flight 3 and then we wound up winning Flight 2, which was a really big accomplishment for us. We’ve never done that before.”

“It was the first time we’ve ever beaten North Allegheny,” head coach Jacob Grant added. “We’ve played them twice since I started coaching here [in 2015]. Both times, we lost to them by one.”

Flight 2 consisted of the teams that went 1-1 on the first day of the Beast of the East tourney on Sept. 22. (Flight 1 was for the teams that went 2-0; Flight 3 was for the teams that went 0-2.) Pennridge went 3-0 on the second day.

“For (junior) Emily (Eckelmeyer) to score that game-winning goal at the end, in the last second of overtime [against North Allegheny, it] was amazing,” Pritz said. “It was just like a high for everyone on the team.”

“By the time Beast of the East rolls around, our team kind of comes together,” junior captain Reese Trauger said. “Playing Upper Dublin before Beast of the East, we weren’t really together. That tournament was huge for us.

“Everybody knew that we were a better team coming out of that tournament,” Trauger continued, “and today really showed that.”

The Rams led 4-3 at halftime last Thursday. A 3-0 third quarter helped Pennridge pull away. Trauger scored a pair in the third; Pritz added one.

Senior goalie Logan Scott, who’s 6-feet tall, Grant reported, came up huge in the third in the shallow end of the pool. She finished with 14 blocks.

“[Scott] played lights out,” Grant said. “The kids know that when the goalie’s playing well and when we’re playing well defensively, they need to put up some points. We shoot well in the deep end and we defend well in the shallow end, so the third quarter was just our quarter to break away from them.”

“They are our biggest rival this year, I’d say,” Trauger said of Upper Dublin, “with Souderton a close second, so we knew that we wanted to win and in the second half, we really brought it home.”

Trauger had a hat trick. Eckelmeyer contributed two goals, while Ryan Bashaar, Rachel Keyser and Pritz each scored one goal. Eckelmeyer added an assist. She and Keyser each also came up with a team-leading four steals; Pritz had three.

The Rams are 10-8 overall and 6-3 in the Eastern Conference. They will need to place in the top 2 at the conference championships on Oct. 21 to guarantee themselves a spot in states. The third- and fourth-place teams are forced to play a state play-in game. Pennridge last made states in 2015.

“Our biggest goal is to obviously try to make states,” said Trauger, whose Rams fell in a state play-in a year ago, “and do well this year.”

Pennridge got off to a rocky 0-4 start. The Rams have since rebounded. Their big win in the Beast of the East helped exponentially.

“I think we’re just riding that momentum,” Grant said, “and I mean, when I watch film, it’s a team that I don’t recognize from the beginning of the season.”

dcampbell@buckscountyherald.com

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