When two high school teams play each other multiple times during a season, the result is often the same every time.
There’s less variation in the skill of high school athletes, so when a team is better on one day, it's usually better on all days.
That’s what makes the 2019 Central York-Northeastern boys’ volleyball rivalry different than most. The two squads have faced off five times already, with both teams winning at least once. Central is ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 3-A by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association, while Northeastern is No. 2.
In the latest chapter in possibly the most storied boys' volleyball rivalry in the state, the two squads face off Tuesday night at Central York for the York-Adams League regular-season title.
“It brings attention to York County’s premier sport,” said Central head coach Todd Goodling. “I think it’s really special. Having another great program four miles away from you is a great motivating factor for both programs.”
Past match-ups: The Bobcats and Panthers have faced off five times this season in tournament action, with Central leading the series 3-1-1.
They tied in pool play during the North Allegheny tournament in March, and Central later defeated Northeastern in the finals.
The Bobcats got their revenge in the quarterfinals of the Bobcat Invitational in late March, defeating the Panthers 2-1. Central then defeated Northeastern 2-1 in the Koller Classic in mid-April. The Panthers beat the Bobcats in pool play of the State College Invitational, which Northeastern went onto win later in the day.
“I think they’ve gotten the better of us,” said Northeastern head coach Matt Wilson. “When you lay it down side by side it looks close, but I think they play a higher level more consistently than we do.”
Following Tuesday's match, the two teams could play potentially three more times in the Y-A League playoffs, District 3 playoffs and state playoffs.
As two of the top teams in the state, Goodling said it’s beneficial to play Central a number of times in a season.
“It’s great to play each other several times during the year, because going into postseason play, it’s a great indicator of where you are and what you need to work on,” Goodling said.”
No surprises: Wilson said playing a team several times in a season means there are no surprises come game time.
“There’s only so much you can do,” Wilson said. “I know we’ve been adjusting our lineup throughout the season. Central is a mature, experienced team. They’re at a point where they have the luxury of saying they’re in the driver’s seat. The rest of us are trying to catch them.”
Goodling said when Northeastern and Central play each other, “you throw out all the particulars.”
“It doesn’t matter much, year to year, the quality of either of the teams,” Goodling said. “The match will come down to something special or unique.”
Consistency is key: Wilson said of all the top teams in the state, Central is the most “consistent.”
“They obviously have a dynamic offense led by Braden Richard,” Wilson said of the Saint Francis University recruit. “He’s one of the top players in the state. But at the end of the day they’ve had the consistency. Their skill set is better than everyone else’s on a consistent basis.”
Wilson said he believes his squad, led by his own Saint Francis recruit in Alex Finch, can be the best team in the state, but that his young team lacks consistency.
“Our highs are very high, and our lows are very low,” Wilson said. “We’re trying to minimize how low we go on our lows. That’s been our Achilles heel so far this season. We’re not consistent. If we are at our high level, we can say we’re the best.”
The match Tuesday is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Both teams are 10-0 in Y-A action, with Northeastern 12-1 in dual matches, while Central York is 11-0.
“I know our guys are looking forward to playing that match. It usually draws a big crowd,” Goodling said. “I think anything can happen on Tuesday night.”
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.