Despite losing the majority of its players to graduation, Pennsbury is off to a fast start in the Suburban One National Conference. William Tennent provided a challenge in many ways on Monday night, but the Falcons' strength, organization and athleticism won out.
Pennsbury improved to 5-0 on the young season with a four-game win over Tennent. The Falcons were dominant in the first two games before dropping the third. However, they came back and fought off a feisty Panther team in the fourth to claim another victory.
It wasn't always perfect or pretty, but Pennsbury looks like a strong, and improving, squad right now.
"We've been going through our ups and downs because we are an older team, but we are inexperienced,' Pennsbury coach Justin Fee said. "We are going through some growing pains and inconsistency, but we are 5-0 which I'm happy about and wouldn't trade it for anything. We are just trying to slowly improve things throughout the season and made a nice run later on.'
The first game set the tone for the rest of the match. While Pennsbury always seemed a step ahead, it never gained a comfortable lead. Falcons' middle hitter Alec Foerster had a very impressive game overall, but was probably at his strongest in the first. He was a force at the net, smashing down kills with little opposition. Outside hitter Daniel Levey also had a solid first game and the Falcons showed outstanding combo play up front. The Panthers hung around, but eventually dropped the game 25-19.
"Unfortunately, our success has a lot to do with if we get momentum serving, which we are a little hit or miss,' Tennent coach Jimmy Creighton said. "The consistency has not been there. We haven't really strung two good games together. We were kind of in the hole right away. But our league is really tough, so records really go out the window and it's about how well you play on a given night.'
After the second game, the match appeared to be headed for a sweep. The Panthers were daunted by unforced errors, specifically in the service department, and struggled to connect passes. Tennent's Jake Milnazik performed well on offense, but Foerster shined again for Pennsbury. The Falcons looked the smoother, more composed team and that led to a 25-15 second game victory.
Although Tennent is now 0-4 in conference play, the Panthers proved that they are better than the record suggests. Part of that had to do with their mullet-donning libero, Dillon Cooney. No matter how Tennent performed as a team throughout the night, if it was playing well it had a lot to do with Cooney getting touches.
"Whether it's setting up, serving or on defense, the more touches [Cooney] gets, the better,' Creighton said. "He keeps the ball alive and helps our offense. He's a great player. We also have two good outside hitters. If we can get a few digs and swing momentum, we can hang around in most games.'
His influence and calm on the ball, as well as his vocalness, allowed the Panthers to take over the third game and extend the match with a 25-16 win. They looked the best they had all night in that game and Pennsbury knew that it had a fight on its hands.
However, as it often does, class won out. Pennsbury shook off the third game loss and put the match to bed in the fourth, but not without another fight from the Panthers. Drew Ettlinger and Jacen Arruda provide a big portion of the offense for the Falcons, while Alex Reilly and John Killoran were also strong on the outside.
The Panthers showed well, probably having their best net presence of the match in the fourth, but struggled against with five service errors. The Falcons were up by as many as six and Tennent fought back, but Killoran smashed home a kill to seal the game at 25-21 and Pennsbury continued its unbeaten run.
"I think our athleticism is going to help us going forward,' Fee said. "We have a setter who makes good decisions, we have some height and middles that are quick and our defense is getting better. We just have some fine tuning to do in order to get where we need to be, but it's getting there.'