MANCHESTER — A lot of boys' volleyball teams would find themselves in big trouble if they lost their all-state setter for any period of time.
Only the very strong and deep programs could survive such a loss.
Fortunately for Northeastern coach Matt Wilson, his program would fit into that category. With lingering shin issues plaguing senior setter Luke Braswell for the better part of 45 days, Wilson made a commitment to hold out his setter until the injury subsides.
So without Braswell, the Bobcat coach picked sophomore Matt Schaeffer to run the offense Thursday night against York-Adams League rival Red Lion. With Schaeffer setting up his teammates, Northeastern didn't seem to miss a beat. The defending PIAA Class AA champs swept past the Lions, 25-10, 25-18, 25-16.
"What Matt Schaeffer did for us tonight was huge," Wilson said after Schaeffer dished out 27 assists. "He brings a lot of enthusiasm to the court. He's a smart setter and he's been around with us for a long time."
The good news for Schaeffer was that he had some time to prepare for his promotion from the JV squad. While Braswell played Tuesday night against Susquehannock, it was determined sometime last week that Schaeffer would set for the varsity club once Braswell's shin injury became too painful.
"We knew about a week ago that Luke was going to be sitting out to nurse his injury," Schaeffer said. "So I had some time to prepare (in practice) to get into it more. So I feel I'm adjusted now."
A young, yet highly talented supporting cast of hitters can make the adjustment a lot easier. Fellow sophomore Reese Devilbiss and junior Philip White each boomed 11 kills to lead the Bobcats, who compiled nine aces.
The biggest difference that Schaeffer notices was, not surprisingly, the higher level of skill and speed displayed all around the court at the varsity level.
"The quality of play is a lot better," he said. "In JV it's a lot slower and varsity is a lot faster."
The transition got an "assist" from Braswell, who provided his apprentice with a bevy of tips, while trying to avoid seeming like a coach.
"I try to be a mentor to him," Braswell said. "I don't want to feel like I'm coaching him, because if I were in his shoes I wouldn't want someone on the team to coach me. So I just try to give him pointers about what our team likes and that kind of stuff."
Two areas — serving and blocking — that Wilson pays a lot of attention to played key roles in the victory. Devilbiss finished with three aces but started the night with nine-straight points at the service line to set the tone. White, who also recorded three aces, displayed a menacing serve at times, while Chris Lee and Matt Hollinger also had strong service rotations.
White and Casey Winand each tallied three blocks to lead the Bobcats, who tallied 11 as a team.
"I thought we blocked well and I thought that Philip blocked really well," Wilson said. "He touched a lot of balls. So it was a good night for us tonight. We're really happy."
Dillon Hildebrand led the Lions with seven kills, eight digs and two blocks. The trio of Dan Longnecker, John Longnecker and Hunter Klein combined for 16 assists for Red Lion.
Notes: Braswell will most likely be out of action for "a while," Wilson said.
"How long? I don't know," Wilson said. "It's kind of like shin splints on steroids. So it's a severe shin ailment and the only way to get it better is rest."
That means Braswell will definitely be on the sidelines for this weekend's Koller Classic at Central York High School. Nearly all of the state's top-ranked clubs will be in action at the Koller, so it will provide Schaeffer a good chance to gain some valuable experience.
"The experience that he's able to get with this court time at this level should get him ready as we play quality opponents," Wilson said.
Northeastern improved to 7-0 overall and 5-0 in the York-Adams League. Red Lion fell to 3-2 overall and in the league.
other BOYS' VOLLEYBALL
Spring Grove 3, Eastern 0: At Wrightsville, the Rockets won, 25-18, 25-22, 26-24. Dalton Forbes led the Rockets with 32 kills and 16 digs. Garrett Lieb had 14 digs and three kills, Austin Muff had 32 assists and Matt Grove had six digs. For the Golden Knights, Nate Myers had nine assists, six kills and three blocks, while teammates Royce Elliot had five kills and four digs and Sean Mego had four assists, three digs and three kills. Spring Grove won the JV match, 25-13, 25-19.
West York 3, Dover 0: At West York, Austin Groff (16 kills), Taylor Boyer (17 assists, six digs), Brett Strickler (13 assists, six kills) and Josh Rinehart (seven kills, eight digs) led the Bulldogs to a 25-14, 25-20, 25-20 victory. The Dover leaders were Brendan Warren (13 kills, 11 digs), J.T. Crosson (24 assists), Koi Xapakdy (nine digs) and Kole Hoffman (nine digs, six kills). West York won the JV match, 25-21, 23-25, 15-13.
York Suburban 3, Dallastown 0: At Suburban, the Trojans rolled 25-18, 25-16, 25-21, behind 14 kills, six digs and four aces from Jacob Kauffman. Josh Teague added 18 digs for the winners, while Lars Dalemar had 21 assists, seven digs and four kills. Dallastown was paced by Nate Swartz (nine assists) and Zach Zerr (five kills). Suburban won the JV match, 24-26, 25-19, 15-10.
Central York 3, New Oxford 0: The top-ranked Panthers won, 25-3, 25-5, 25-10. Central York, the top-ranked team in the latest Class AAA rankings from the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association, was led by Royce Clemens (12 kills, nine digs) and Landon Shorts (13 digs, six aces, three kills). Ryan McMaster (13 digs, four kills) and Trey Noble (seven assists, three digs) paced the host Colonials. In JV action, Central won, 25-13, 27-25.
Susquehannock 3, Kennard-Dale 0: At Fawn Grove, Brian Sheddy led the Warriors to a 25-13, 25-8, 25-14 victory with six kills, 13 digs and six aces. Also for Susquehannock, Stephen Rouse had 23 assists, A.J. Schaeffer had six kills and Nathan Rohrbaugh had nine kills. For the Rams, Kendall Wales had six kills and four blocks, while Josiah McConville had eight assists and seven digs and Luke Criswell had four kills. Susquehannock won the JV match, 25-23, 25-19.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.