Cardinals soar past Knights late in 5 sets


Erik Jesberger

Junior Ryan Stewart keeps play alive and serves up a kill attempt for North Penn.

TOWAMENCIN- Trading kills and digs all the way to the final 5 points of the final set, the hot hands of Upper Dublin’s, Mario Petushi and Matthew Ross, propelled the Cardinals over the Knights. The Petushi and Ross combo tallied up 17 of the 28 total kills and earned 3 of the 4 total aces in the match to help win in an exceptional Tuesday night matchup at North Penn High School.

The North Penn Knights (5-3) and Upper Dublin Cardinals (8-1) met in a game that included both teams heading into the final moments of the final set with opportunities to sway the game in their favor. With multiple momentum shifts and highlight reel plays from sets 1 through 5, it was the Cardinals who pulled ahead in the final set to top North Penn 3-2 in the best of 5 sets.

“Upper Dublin is a fun and talented team to play against because they got two outsides that are both the real deal. The game pushed them to the limits, pushed us to the limits, and the end could have gone either way, but in the end it fell their way,” explained Knights Head Coach Ryan Genova.

The match kicked-off with the Knights coming out of the gate with a 1st set win including back to back aces from senior, Drew Coles, and were followed up by a kill from fellow senior, Kevin Abraham, to cushion a 24-21 late first set lead.

“Normally we don’t pull through in the first, but the energy from our bench and from those of us on the court picking it up, both carried us to that first set win. Our mindset going into the game was to bring more energy and to do what we know how to do, especially after losing in 4 last time we played them,” stated Coles.

A kill attempt sent out of bounds from Upper Dublin’s, Joseph Levin, gave the Knights their 1-0 set lead and sparked an intense matchup that was on full display right away in set 2. A Michael Wang block on Upper Dublin’s, Alec Madden, bolstered the Knights to an early 3-1 set lead. However, the Cardinals responded with their own combo as they got a block from Petushi and followed it up by a kill strike from Michael Ryan. Both of these plays stirred up hype on the court and chatter through the net, and set 2 was still only 10 points in.

“We were all about just pouring everything onto the court. It’s all about momentum shifts and I think a big part of it is the senior captains keeping the team’s energy up, but I think at the end of the day we can all lean on each other,” said Wang.

Erik Jesberger
Michael Wang serves the ball for the Knights

Summing up the rest of set 2 of the best of 5 match was Petushi as over 10 consecutive successful serves would cruise the Cardinals to a set 2 victory and even up the sets at 1-1 for both squads. However, out of the 2nd set intermission huddle and going toe to toe with Upper Dublin throughout much of the 3rd set, the Knights would take back the sets lead at 2-1 thanks to highlight efforts from North Penn juniors, Jamie Stewart and Evan Rothman. 6 total digs in the set from Stewart, including a right handed reach while on his knees to respond to a kill attempt from Petushi to along with 4 total kills and an ace earned by Rothman in the set, gave the Knights the 2-1 advantage heading into set 4.

“I felt that throughout the game I was able to get things on point and for the teammates I felt we played very well overall. We got our digs up, got a lot of kills and we just have to be ready to go at them next time. Our sets and passes were good also, we just gotta put the ball in play and stay in the game to play well,” explained Rothman.

Getting into his groove when his team needed him most, Upper Dublin’s, Matthew Ross, made his biggest impact on the match in set 4, where his team trailed and needed a set victory to force things to an even set score. The Knights grasped early momentum in their match point set, most prominently off of a Wang dig to a Rothman kill followed up by a block from North Penn senior, Zach Jayes at the top of the net. However, Ross answered for the Cards and set an exclamation mark on an Upper Dublin deficit turn around. With 9 kills in the 4th set alone, Ross aided Upper Dublin in fighting back to a 2-2 set tie and set the stage for a first to 15, final set square off.

“Each set just continued to go back and forth and back and forth and it was good to see us build confidence off of those set wins. Especially going into the last set, both teams were very similar in level of play and also different in the way we were playing. For us, we have to maintain the overall vibe of playing with high energy and you always want to do it when you are playing at home,” stated Coach Genova.

Taking control of the last swing of possession and momentum in the Tuesday night match, Jack Thompson’s go ahead ace and Petushi’s 3 kills in the final set capped off things for the red birds. A final set victory for the Cardinals wrapped up the Knight’s 9th game on the season, sending them down to a record of 5-4 while Upper Dublin rises to 9-1 overall on their season.

“Over the next couple of matchups, in terms of standings, [this lost] will push us back a couple of spots, but there’s a chance we might end up seeing Upper Dublin in the playoffs so we want to be better, and work better, but if you make playoffs, you have a shot,” said coach Genova