The Central York boys' volleyball team hasn't faced a great deal of adversity throughout a so-far perfect season.
So when the Panthers received a dose of it Friday night after dropping Game 3 against Central Dauphin in the District 3-AAA finals at Dallastown High School, all were anxious to see how the No. 1 ranked Class AAA team, according to the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association poll, would respond.
The answer? Pretty emphatically.
With the score tied at 5-all in Game 4, Central ran off a streak of eight consecutive points to take control. And while the Rams showed the most grit of any team the Panthers have faced so far this season, they just didn't have enough answers as Central claimed it's first district title since 2010 with a 25-15, 25-23, 21-25, 25-19 victory.
The triumph also marked the 21st District 3 title in the program's history, the most - by a wide margin - of any school in the district.
Central, however, wasn't the only York-Adams League team to walk away with the gold. In the Class AA contest that opened the title double-header at Dallastown, defending champion Northeastern cruised past Garden Spot, 25-17, 25-18, 25-14. That victory marked the fifth District 3 title in the past six years for the Bobcats.
7th-seeded Rams were no pushovers: The fact that it wasn't easy for the Panthers to win the district title actually made the victory a bit sweeter according to outside hitter Jeremiah Dadeboe.
"This feels better than I thought because we had to actually battle and fight for it," said Dadeboe.
Central coach Brad Livingston liked that his club showed some resiliency in the face of adversity.
"You come and you play and just hope that the kids are good enough to withstand whatever happens," said Livingston. "They were tonight. It was a little bit of a rough road, but it's going to be a rough road the whole way out."
CD got off to the kind of start any team would like against an outfit like the Panthers. The Rams won the first three points of Game 1.
It was only a matter of time until Central found it's grove. The Panthers won 21 of the following 29 points to set the tone and cruised to go up 1-0 in the match.
The Rams, which have enough size and strong attackers to give a lot of teams fits, didn't roll over after dropping the first game. After falling behind 3-0 in Game 2, they rallied to take a 6-4 lead moments later.
Central regained the lead back with a 5-0 run of their own only to see CD rally back to go ahead 21-19 late. After a Panther timeout, the York-Adams League champs rallied back with a 6-2 run to close out Game 2.
"We really didn't bring our 'A' game tonight, but it says a lot about our team that we were able to battle and fight back," said Central setter Dylan Hose.
After staking a 6-2 lead in Game 3, the Harrisburg-area program used an 8-2 run to gain the upper hand. While Central was able to even the score up at 18-all late, the Rams won the final three points to become the first team to avoid a Panther sweep.
Could CD use that momentum in Game 3 to pull off an upset? Not quite.
"It was good to see our team respond to that and bounce back with a win," Hose said.
Livingston's squad went back to basics with it's attack and defense in Game 4. Fueled by the serving of Christian Wingert, who recorded three aces during the match, the 8-0 run that broke a 5-all deadlock proved to be too high of a hill for the Rams to climb.
"You're not going to have your way with everybody," Livingston said. "And we certainly didn't have our way with Central Dauphin tonight. They played a great game and they pushed us. They battled us and they made us really scratch and claw. And that's the way it's going to be going down the road."
Hose dished out 44 assists in the victory, while Dadeboe and Jason Gardener each tallied 14 kills to lead the attack. Landon Shorts added 12 kills to go with five aces, while Royce Clemens tallied seven kills, six digs and three blocks.
Central Dauphin standout Tim Calahan led the Rams with 13 kills, while setter Jacob Kerschner dished out 32 assists.
Northeastern goes back-to-back: While last year's PIAA Class AA championship squad was probably a tad bit more physically imposing, the 2014 Northeastern club showed they have enough muscle to help earn the program it's fifth title over the past six years.
"It's a good habit," Bobcat coach Matt Wilson joked. "It never gets old."
What makes this year's title a bit more special is the fact that the Bobcats have had to suffer through some adversity this season. Losing all-state setter Luke Braswell for over a month during the season in addition to a pair of ugly losses to the Panthers brought about some questions marks of the club.
Wilson, however, has shown a penchant for getting the most out of his clubs when the games matter the most. The Bobcats regrouped quickly after dropping the York-Adams league playoff title against Central with resounding victories over Susquehannock and York Suburban to get to Friday's title contest.
While they too may not have played their best, the Bobcats left little doubt that they are the best Class AA team in District 3 by sweeping the Spartans.
"I think we stumbled a little bit, here and there," Wilson said. "We weren't crisp, but we made the plays when we had to. I thought we got a couple crucial blocks and a couple great serves at crucial times that got us some separation."
One of those times was in Game 2 when Northeastern's lead was cut to 15-14. Wilson's club, however, strung together three straight points after that and never looked back.
The Bobcats led throughout Game 3 and celebrated their triumph after the contest's final point.
"This is very satisfying," Matt Hollinger said of his team's triumph. "Back-to-back for my senior year just tops it off."
Braswell dished out 29 assists to go with five kills and five blocks to lead Northeastern. Reese Devilbiss tallied 12 kills and two blocks, while White added eight and Winand five kills apiece. Hollinger recorded six kills and three aces in the victory.