DOVER - The Dover boys' volleyball team feels a bit overlooked.
The Eagles are one of three York-Adams League teams headed to the pool play quarterfinals of the PIAA Class AA state tournament on Friday at Penn State University.
The other two teams are Northeastern, a former state champion, and undefeated York Suburban (19-0), this year's York-Adams League Tournament and District 3-AA champion.
"We do (feel overlooked), but it's not necessarily a bad thing," Dover coach Chris Kennedy said Wednesday night after practice. "I think the kids think it's a bad thing. They want more recognition and I understand that."
However, Kennedy and his players know they have to earn respect. In Kennedy's first year as head coach a year ago, he led the Eagles to their first appearance in the PIAA Tournament, reaching the quarterfinals.
Back in the state tournament again this year, the Eagles (15-4) are looking to put themselves on the map. And considering the level of competition, whatever teams make it past the pool-play round will definitely earn some credibility.
Seven of the eight teams in the quarterfinals are ranked in the top seven in the state in Class AA in the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association rankings. Suburban, the top-ranked team, is in the same pool as No. 4 Northeastern, alongside No. 2 Bethlehem Catholic and No. 7 Derry.
Dover, ranked No. 5 in the state, will compete against No. 3 Ambridge, No. 6 Cochranton and Holy Redeemer, the top seed from District 2.
The two teams from each pool with the best pool-play records will advance to the semifinals on Saturday morning. The state title match is set for 1 p.m. Saturday.
Experience: The Eagles lost four starters from last year's squad, but they returned seven seniors, most of whom saw significant action in 2011, including in the state quarterfinals.
"It was kind of a new experience for us. We didn't know what to expect," Dover senior Ryan Lamparter said. "I think some of the guys were kind of satisfied with getting there. Some of us weren't. I think that showed a little bit."
With his players being a year older, Kennedy is expecting more out of his team this time around.
"Last year just making it there was a goal. We got there and it was kind of an eye-opening experience for the guys," Kennedy said. "We won a match and then I don't think we scored over 17 points after that."
Building a foundation: The Eagles have accomplished a lot in the last two years. In 2011, they fell in the league tournament quarterfinals but then placed third in the District 3-AA Tournament to qualify for the state tournament. This year, Dover lost in the league tournament semifinals but later reached the District 3-AA title match, where the Eagles fell, 3-0, in close sets to Suburban.
And the Eagles have done all of this with a relatively small roster - just nine players were practicing on Wednesday.
But Kennedy, who played collegiately at NCAA Division I St. Francis (Pa.) University, is looking to change that. The Long Island (N.Y.) native is an eighth-grade teacher at Dover Intermediate School, where he is spreading the word about volleyball to his students.
"We don't have a feeder program like Northeastern has," Kennedy said. "Hopefully when (students) see we went to states two years in a row, they want to be part of that experience."
A state title wouldn't hurt that cause, either.
- Reach John Walk at 505-5406 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @YorkSportsGuy.