York County boys' volleyball foes will soon be teammates for NCAA Division I St. Francis

Central York's Braden Richard, center, slams the ball down while Northeastern's Nate Eyster, left, and Wyatt Hughes defend during boys' volleyball action at Northeastern High School last May. Richard will play his college volleyball at NCAA Division I St. Francis.
  • Central York's Braden Richard and Northeastern's Alex Finch have committed to SFU.
  • Richard was on Central's state championship team as a sophomore.
  • Finch was a middle hitter for a Bobcats team that won its sixth straight 2-A title last year.

In a few months, Braden Richard and Alex Finch will be fierce competitors on the boys’ volleyball court.

Richard, an outside hitter for Central York, and Finch, a middle hitter for Northeastern, are two of the best players in the York-Adams League. With Northeastern, a perennial Class 2-A powerhouse, moving up to Class 3-A this season, the Panthers and the Bobcats both have the same goal in mind — a 3-A state title — and only one can achieve it.

After the season ends, though, the two standouts will join forces as teammates at NCAA Division I St. Francis University in Loretto, Cambria County, where they’ve both committed to play men’s volleyball.

“Knowing someone else going there definitely made me more comfortable to go there,” Richard said.

Finch went first: Finch was the first to choose St. Francis when he verbally committed in October. The all-state performer went on his visit with friend and Cumberland Valley senior Blake Liprando.

“I met both Blake and Braden at a tryout and hung out with them over the summer at nationals,” Finch said. “When I went on my visit to SFU I went with Blake, we both had a good time. We made up our minds there that we wanted to go there.”

With college being an adjustment period for most freshmen, Finch said having familiar faces in Liprando and Richard will help the transition.

“I think it will help a lot, especially on the team,” Finch said. “I’ve played with them before. I’ll be used to it.”

Finch will follow another recent Northeastern player to the western Pennsylvania university. Stephen Braswell excelled for the Red Flash from 2013 through 2018.

Northeastern's Alex Finch makes a leaping serve to Manheim Central during the PIAA Class 2-A Volleyball Championship last season. Finch will play his college volleyball for NCAA Division I St. Francis.

Richard goes next: Richard, who was also looking at George Mason and Penn State, said he thought he would fit in with the team’s culture.

“The thing I really liked about St. Francis was about how close the team was,” Richard said.

“I really liked the environment down there,” Finch added. “The team was really tight knit.”

The Red Flash went 9-20 last season out of the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association. This year, St. Francis is 5-3 thus far, including a 3-2 win over No. 14 Ohio State on Friday. That Buckeyes team features another Northeastern grad in Reese Devilbiss.

About Richard: Richard, a 6-foot, 5-inch outside hitter didn’t play volleyball until his freshman year of high school, when the Central York head coach introduced him to the sport.

“Coach (Todd) Goodling taught me everything about it my freshman year,” Richard said. “At the end of the season, I ended up starting on varsity as a middle hitter.”

As a sophomore, Central York won the Class 3-A state championship. Richard was an all-state selection that season, as well as last season as a junior. Last season, he totaled 502 kills and 122 blocks.

“Last year was the year I showed out to colleges,” Richard said. “The last two years I learned more about defense and passing, which is what I needed to do to get noticed by colleges.”

Richard also plays basketball for the Panthers, who are currently 16-5 and are gearing up for a playoff run.

“Basketball has helped me with my explosiveness,” Richard said. “I am definitely more agile and conditioned because of basketball.”

He said the 2019 boys’ volleyball class at Central has dreamed of winning a state title this season since freshman year.

“For the team, I think everyone is looking forward to competing for the state championship,” Richard said. “We’ve had a (text message) group chat named '2019 State Champions' since we were freshmen.”

About Finch: Finch, a 6-4 middle hitter helped lead the Bobcats to their sixth straight Class 2-A state championship last season.  

Finch, who started playing in eighth grade, saw varsity action as a sophomore but stood out last season, when he earned all-state accolades.

“My sophomore year, I started playing varsity a little bit as an opposite hitter,” Finch said. “I played all right. I struggled a little bit. My junior year was my breakout year.”

With his college commitment decided, Finch said he wants to be a leader for the Bobcats in his final season.

“I want to be the guy on the team that just leads by example,” he said. “We all want to win that Class 3-A state title.”

Of course, when the 3-A state title trophy is handed out in June, only one of the future St. Francis teammates can be happy.

Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at jmeyer@yorkdispatch.com.