His team down two points in the opening game of a District 3-AA boys' volleyball semifinal, Northeastern coach Matt Wilson called a timeout to get his top-seeded Bobcats back on track.
"I got to make some changes right now," Wilson said during the timeout, while staring at his junior setter, Matt Hollinger.
Hollinger stayed on the bench when play resumed before re-entering when No. 5 Schuylkill Valley went up by four points, 14-10. That turned out to be Northeastern's largest deficit Wednesday night at Central York High School.
"I wasn't playing up to my expectations," Hollinger said. "I just wasn't making plays out on the block, so I got taken out."
With Hollinger back out on the court in Game 1, the Bobcats responded by going on an 11-7 run to take a one-point advantage, marking their first lead of the contest. Northeastern wouldn't look back from there, beating Schuylkill Valley in three games, 25-21, 25-8, 25-13.
"Miscommunication and being out of position for the most part," Hollinger said of the Bobcats' issues in Game 1. "All the middle would do is tip under the block. I wasn't under the block in Game 1. Once I got under the block, I was tipping balls."
Hollinger finished with 19 digs. Teammates Stephen Braswell (14 kills, eight digs) and Reese Devilbiss (10 kills, eight digs) also paced Northeastern.
Although the Bobcats (17-1) advanced to the District 3-AA title game for the first time in two years, they sounded more like a team that lost.
"We were just slow from the very start," Devilbiss said. "We were slow the whole night. This isn't how we play. I don't know what happened. We need to pick it up going into states. I don't know what to say about it. This is just bad right now."
Wilson had similar comments.
"Tonight's one of those nights where we survive into next week no matter what," Wilson said. "But the game isn't just to limp into states. You want to be going full-speed. I just felt we needed a bit of a jolt (in the first game). I don't know if we got that or not (after the timeout). I think we need to get some peoples' attention that at some point here we gotta play better. We're struggling right now, no doubt."
Championship: Northeastern's opponent in the district title game on Friday at Dallastown High School will be No. 2 Manheim Central (19-2). The Barons defeated No. 3 Lancaster Mennonite (16-4) in four games in the first contest of the night at Central, 20-25, 36-34, 29-27, 25-19.
Friday's title game will begin at 6 p.m.
The Bobcats, ranked No. 1 in the state in Class AA by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association, last faced Manheim Central, which is ranked No. 5 in the state by the PVCA, in the District 3-AA third-place game a year ago, beating the Barons in three games. Friday's match-up is also a rematch of the 2009 District 3-AA title game, which Northeastern won in five games.
"They returned just about everybody (from last year), but everybody has gotten better, too," Wilson said. "We watched them tonight. They're probably the best team right now in District 3-AA. We got our work cut out for us."
He said his club will need to make some improvements if they want to win the program's fourth district crown in five years and 13th district title overall.
"Our next-round opponent is going to be doing some similar things that's not all traditional," Wilson said. "We're struggling a little bit with some of the non-traditional things that are taking place. We need to be ready and able to handle that."
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.