Bucks County Herald

New Hope knocks off Panther Valley in three

DAVID CAMPBELL



New Hope smiles for the camera with the District One/District 11 Class AA trophy. The Lions earned their second straight regional title last Thursday, sweeping Panther Valley, 3-0, at Council Rock South. The Panthers entered the match with only one loss and were ranked eighth in Pennsylvania.

Entering week seven, New Hope-Solebury was noticeably absent from the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association (PVCA) Class AA top 10.

District 11 champion Panther Valley was on that list. The Panthers were eighth. And head coach Roy Watson’s Lions noticed.

“They had a little extra motivation,” said Watson, whose club was matched up against Panther Valley in last Thursday’s District One/District 11 regional final at Council Rock South, with only the winner moving on to states.

“We just really wanted to win,” junior setter Gwen Vogelsang said. “We knew what they had to bring and we thought we could bring more.”

New Hope brought a lot more, sweeping the eighth-ranked team in the state, 3-0 (25-20, 26-24, 25-23), to claim its second straight regional championship.

“It’s just amazing to be on that court and know that you were a part of that win,” said freshman defensive specialist Grace Hanly, celebrating her first regional title.

The match could have turned in the second set. It didn’t.

“They just wanted it more,” Watson said of his Lions. “To come back from a 24-22 deficit in the second set and win that set, it’s a testament to their mental character. I mean, they’re just tough. They’re a tough team.

“We’re very efficient,” Watson added. “We were much more efficient than Panther Valley and I think that helped. They struggled in some rotations in serve receive and also serving the ball in play. My team doesn’t miss serves.”

“I think everyone’s at their best right now,” said junior Jennifer Sommerfeldt, who had a pair of kills and a block against the Panthers. “Our team is pretty solid.”

New Hope is 20-2 in best-of-five matches after Tuesday’s state opening win over District 12 runner-up Bishop McDevitt, 3-0. The Lions defeated Central Bucks South and Council Rock South, both District One Class AAAA qualifiers, both in five sets in the regular season. New Hope also downed Class AAAA semifinalist Perkiomen Valley, 2-1, in a tournament on Sept. 23 hosted by the Vikings.

“I think for them it was about developing toughness, developing that mindset that it doesn’t matter who is across from us,” Watson said. “We can still beat them.”

The Lions routed Saint Basil, 3-0 (25-18, 25-14, 25-15), in the regional semifinals on Oct. 26. Sophomore Katie Costello finished with 19 kills; she had 17 against Panther Valley. Sophomore libero Bella Fleischacker had 18 digs against St. Basil and 22 against Panther Valley. Vogelsang had 29 assists and seven aces against St. Basil and 27 assists and two blocks against Panther Valley.

Junior Carina Rozycki had seven digs last Thursday. In the same game, senior Rachel McMahon, who shares captain duties with Vogelsang, had four kills and two aces; junior Maryna Chuma added two blocks.

Watson has only two seniors and the interest is there in the lower grade levels.

“The freshmen who came in are really good,” Sommerfeldt said. “I feel like that’s what really brought our team together. A lot of them, especially Grace, are really good with their passes. Everyone in the back row is just a really solid passer.”

New Hope was eliminated in the quarterfinals of states in 2016. The Lions fell to District Two champion Holy Redeemer in four. District Six runner-up West Shamokin is New Hope’s quarterfinal opponent on Saturday. The winner would get Delone Catholic or Holy Redeemer in the semifinals.

“I feel like we’re definitely all a lot closer this year,” Sommerfeldt said. “Last year, I didn’t feel the bond as much as I do this year.”

“I think last year we thought that was going to be the [furthest] we went,” said Vogelsang, whose Lions are 10th in the latest PVCA rankings, “but we had a lot of freshmen come in and I think everyone got better. We all play club and I think that really just boosted our team and we all got a lot better – and we just keep rising.”

dcampbell@buckscountyherald.com

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