Pennridge’s Steph Judkins and Lauren Drugotch attempt to block Sun Valley’s Chelsea Jones from getting the ball over the net for a point in
Pennridge's Steph Judkins and Lauren Drugotch attempt to block Sun Valley's Chelsea Jones from getting the ball over the net for a point in Tuesday's District One Class AAA playoff game. (Julia Wilkinson)

ASTON — Ernie Colantonio could have drawn up a dozen fancy plays, devised a meticulously thought-out scheme and tossed in a few gimmicks and tricks when his Sun Valley team took on Pennridge Tuesday night in the opening round of the District One Class AAA tournament.

That, however, would have only made things complicated, and really, why make things complicated when they don't have to be? So the Vanguards boss simplified things and made his instructions very clear to his team.

Get the ball early to Madison McCunney and Chelsea Jones, get it to them often and if it doesn't work, just start over and try again. Pretty simple, right? At least it looked that way in No. 13 Sun Valley's 3-0 sweep of the No. 20 Rams, a match in which the Vanguards claimed wins of 25-23, 25-17 and 25-17. Sun Valley will travel to No. 4 Strath Haven Thursday night at 7.

Sun Valley’s Lidia Grzybacz, left, and team captain Chelsea Jones celebrate their District One Class AAA opening-round win over Pennridge, 3-0,
Sun Valley's Lidia Grzybacz, left, and team captain Chelsea Jones celebrate their District One Class AAA opening-round win over Pennridge, 3-0, Tuesday. (Julia Wilkinson)

"When I know where (McCunney is) going and she picks them apart, I know to go to her every time,' said Jones, who the middle blocker/setter who dazzled with 21 assists and 19 kills. "I can't do it without her.'

"If they don't stop us,' McCunney added, "I'm going to keep going to (Jones). And if we keep getting kills from her, why not keep giving it to her wherever I am on the floor?'

McCunney, who was fantastic with 20 assists, 16 kills and four aces, and Jones are movable chess pieces for Colantonio. They can line up just about anywhere on the court and offer a wealth of options for the Vanguards (12-7), not to mention a handful of headaches for opposing teams.


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"I love that I can do any position and she can do any position,' McCunney said. "It's the best. That's amazing.'

The problems that threat caused Pennridge was evident, even though the Rams had a pretty good idea of what Sun Valley was going to bring to the table.

"We had an idea,' libero Kara Weaver said. "We had a player on our team that knew that it was going to 10 (Jones) and 11 (McCunney) every time and we tried to shut them down, but I'm proud of our team.'

Sun Valley fended off an early push from Pennridge to claim the first one and from there, the Rams weren't able to stay with the Vanguards down the stretch. In both the second and third games, Sun Valley pulled away late and ended things with a monster kill from McCunney in the second game and a serving ace from Jocelyn Romesburg in the finale.

Pennridge, on the other hand, had plenty to be proud of after making the playoffs ended a stretch of lean years for the Rams when they rarely contended for a district spot. Weaver has been through it all for Pennridge, so even though the curtain fell on the Rams' season and her career, she had a lot to reflect on.

"We have played awful volleyball over the past six years,' Weaver said. "We finally got here and that's all that really matters to us. It's pretty cool (to make it). Our past seasons have kind of been a joke and this year, we've been a comeback team. We had a rough start to our season, ... but ever since then it's been great. I love my team.'

The Vanguards would rather keep their run going, though. Just making it here is fine, but Sun Valley has an eye on bigger and better things, especially after losing, 3-0, to Strath Haven in the season opener. The Central League champions will be a handful for the Vanguards, but Sun Valley isn't shying away from the competition.

"I love it,' said libero Mallorie Estock, who chipped in six digs. "It's a redemption match for us. I'm really excited to play them.'

There's a lot to be excited about.