The North Penn Maidens defeated Cumberland Valley 7-6 to capture the program’s second state title in as many years.
It’s difficult if not impossible to attain, but the North Penn Maidens achieved perfection this season, capping a 29-0 season with a heartstopping 7-6 win over Cumberland Valley to capture the 2015 Pennsylvania State Water Polo title.
The Maidens rallied from a 4-3 halftime deficit to earn the win. Senior captains Erin O’Neill and Shannon Quinn each scored a goal to put the Maidens on top 5-4. The Eagles came back to knot the score, but Leah Brown scored with a minute remaining in the third quarter to put the Maidens on top 6-5, and sophomore Caroline Gillespie added an insurance goal to make it 7-5 midway through the final quarter.
Sophomore goalie Rosalinda Rivera was tested during the fourth quarter when the Maidens were in foul trouble, and she made several huge saves to keep her team on top. With 15 seconds remaining in regulation, Cumberland Valley’s Emily Wickenheiser – who earned PA Player of the Year honors – netted another goal for the 7-6 final. North Penn held on for a victory that gave the program its second consecutive state title.
Brown finished with the hat trick to lead the Maidens while Quinn added a pair. O’Neill and Gillespie each had single goals. Rivera was credited with 12 saves in goal. Kailyn Evans and O’Neill each had four saves. Quinn also had four exclusions drawn, and Aimee Baur had two.
North Penn’s route to the title game included a 14-5 win over Pennridge on Friday that, according to coach Katie Grunmeier, was a total team effort. On Saturday morning, the Maidens faced their first real test of the season but prevailed, defeating Villa Maria Academy 11-8. Contributing goals for the Maidens were Brown (4), Baur (3), Quinn (2), O’Neill (1) and Evans (1).
Brown led the team in scoring with nine goals in the tournament, followed by Baur (7), Quinn (6) and O’Neill (5). Rivera recorded 34 saves in the three tournament games.
Earning first team all-state honors were seniors Shannon Quinn, Erin O’Neill, Leah Brown and Aimee Baur. Junior Kailyn Evans and sophomore Caroline Gillespie received all-state honorable mention. Coach Katie Grunmeier was named PA girls’ Coach of the Year.
In addition, O’Neill, Quinn, Brown and Baur earned first team All-Eastern Conference honors. Earning second team All-Eastern-Conference recognition were Evans, Gillespie and Rivera. Sophomores Megan Zartman, Maddy Koerper and Maeve Wydan earned third team All-Eastern Conference recognition. The Maidens won the Eastern Conference championship as well, defeating Souderton 13-2 in the final game to advance to states as the number one seed.
The state title was the program’s second in as many years and seventh in the past 10 years. This was the Maidens’ first undefeated season since 2006.
Earlier this season, the Maidens were the Beast of the East champions, defeating Upper Arlington of Ohio 10-5 to win the title for the first time since 2006. Upper Arlington went on to earn the Ohio state crown.
Seniors Aimee Baur and Erin O’Neill recently signed letters of intent to play water polo and swim at Saint Francis University. Assisting Grunmeier this season was Molly Robinson.
North Penn’s seniors instrumental in securing state championship
Updated: November 17, 2015
North Penn's Aimee Baur (4) controls a ball in front of Villa Maria defernders during their State Championship semifinal at North Penn High School on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. (Mark C Psoras/The Reporter)
Down 4-3 at halftime Saturday night, North Penn knew it needed just one more run, one more solid half of water polo to come away with the championship it had coveted since August.
“I think we realized this is our pool, and this is what we’ve worked for all season,” said senior Shannon Quinn. “We need to come through and win this for our team.”
The second half would serve as one final moment for Quinn and the rest of North Penn’s splendid senior class.
Controlling play the rest of the way, the Maidens got back-to-back goals by their two captains, Erin O’Neill and Quinn, to push ahead 5-4. And although the persistent Eagles tied the contest at five, North Penn went in front for good when a goal by senior Leah Brown provided a 6-5 edge, culminating in a 7-6 triumph that climaxed a 29-0 season.
Perfection did not come easy. It never does.
Cumberland Valley, a team the Maidens had defeated 10-3 at Beast of the East and 14-4 at the Knight Invite, had come on strong, fortified by the heroics of one Emily Wickenheiser, who would go on to earn Player of the Year honors.
But through it all, the leadership provided by O’Neill, Quinn, Brown and Aimee Baur kept pushing the Maidens toward the completion of their quest.
“Our seniors are amazing,” coach Katie Grunmeier said. “I love them. They’re the best. They’re the heart and soul of our team, the heart and soul of our program for the last three or four years.”
All four seniors would be named First Team All-State. In as balanced an attack as you’ll see, Brown’s nine goals led the way in the tournament, followed closely by Baur’s seven, Quinn’s six and O’Neill’s five.
In addition, sophomore goalie Rosalinda Rivera played with a level of poise beyond her years, holding down the fort in the second half against Cumberland Valley and going on to record 34 saves in the 3-0 tournament run.
Sophomore Caroline Gillespie received All-State Honorable Mention while Grunmeier’s leadership earned her Coach of the Year honors.
A dynasty that may have plenty of years ahead, it was North Penn’s second consecutive state crown, fourth in the last five years, and seventh in the last 10.
“The kids put in the work and the time,” Grunmeier said, “and success follows.”
With players like Gillespie and Rivera returning, a three-peat is not out of the question. Saturday provided the class of ‘16 to have one final (championship) moment.
“We worked so well together and we played together for four years,” Quinn said. “It feels great to have won it with them.”