BOYS' VOLLEYBALL: Dallastown falls just short in bid to take down No. 5 Central Dauphin

  • The Dallastown Wildcats faced Central Dauphin on Monday in non-league boys' volleyball action.
  • The Rams came into the game ranked No. 5 in the state in Class 3-A by the PVCA.
  • Dallastown took Central Dauphin to a fifth-and-deciding game before suffering the setback.

It’s a hallmark of any athletic program that wants to be among the best around.

Dallastown's Jake Bixler (21) drives the ball past Central Dauphin's Bryan Gundy (20) and Dylan Baldwin (23).

You schedule the toughest non-league competition you can find, rather than opting for record-padding opponents of lesser caliber.

For the Dallastown High School boys’ volleyball team, the first match of its 2018 season definitely fit the bill.

The Wildcats battled hard, but ultimately some early-season rust got the better of them during a 19-25, 25-16, 28-26, 22-25, 15-7 home loss to Central Dauphin on Monday, March 26. The Rams entered the match ranked No. 5 in the state in Class 3-A in the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association rankings.

“I love it,” Dallastown head coach Tom Beakler said of taking on the highly-ranked Rams to start the year. “We went up to Central Dauphin for a scrimmage last week, but we haven’t had any real match experience yet. They were up at North Allegheny all day Saturday (for an invitational) and you could tell. But I thought we played with them. They’re a good team.”

Make-or-break moment: A make-or-break moment came after the Wildcats had dropped a hard-fought Game 3. The Rams controlled momentum after seizing the match by taking the third game following a dominant victory in the second.

Dallastown's Ben Ward slams past Central Dauphin's John Frankford.

Once Central Dauphin raced out to an early 8-4 lead in Game 4, a lesser team could have easily just folded and chalked up the night to having taken on one of the best in the state. But not Dallastown.

A Ben Ward kill, one of his game-high 17 on the night, gave the Wildcats service. Wyatt Myers then served up three straight points to even the game at 8-8. Later in Game 4, Dallastown’s other dominant front-row force, Jake Bixler, took over.

A Bixler kill gave the Wildcats a 13-11 lead and he then followed it up with a huge block on the next point that helped the Wildcats establish the separation they’d need to take the game. Two big blocks from Mason Figdore down the stretch helped force a fifth-and-deciding game.

In that final race to 15, the Rams looked the part of a top-five team. The hitting and service errors that had doomed the Wildcats in the middle part of the match returned.

Dallastown's Wyatt Myers (5) and Mason Figdore (11) block a shot.

“I was pleased with the kids. We had a few spells where we saw some weaknesses, but there’s nothing there we can’t fix with good, hard practices,” Beakler said. “The kids have to understand that if they practice better, they’re going to get better.”

Strong start for Wildcats: Bixler’s fingerprints were all over the Wildcats' victory in the first game. Bixler posted two of his 15 kills on the night and two of this three blocks during a 9-2 run for Dallastown to open the game. He would add a block and two more kills to help the Wildcats take the opener. His final kill of the game clinched the Game 1 win.

Dallastown got 30 digs from Cade Fry, while Figdore finished with 31 assists and Ward would add six digs.

The Rams got things going in the second game, mainly because of outside hitter Eric Hironimus. It was on Hironimus’ service that Central Dauphin rattled off six straight points to take a trim 14-13 edge and expand it to 20-13 before cruising to even the match.

Dallastown's Jacob Horning blasts the ball past Central Daughin's William Henning (4) and Dylan Baldwin (23).

It was the start of a team-high 11-kill, five-block night for Hironimus. He was also the leader of a solid Rams defense that was able to collect 52 digs, many coming on hard swing attempts from Ward and Bixler. Hironimus accounted for 15 digs.

Hitting errors costly: The second game also saw Dallastown commit seven hitting errors and miss on six serves while allowing the Rams to even the contest at a game apiece. Those same problems would later doom Dallastown in the fifth game. Afterward, Beakler pinpointed early-season rust as a cause.

“A little bit of toughness and not enough time in the gym. I really feel that’s what it was,” Beakler said.

There’s little rest for the Wildcats, who turn around and host New Oxford on Tuesday night. Then comes a day to practice before hosting the Keystone Cup, which will see them with two matches on Thursday, March 29.

Once this week ends, it’s another battle with one of the state's top teams when the Wildcats travel to Northeastern on Tuesday, April 3.

Dallastown's Cade Fry returns.



Dover 3, Northern York 1: At Dover, the Eagles won the non-league match, 25-22, 20-25, 25-20, 25-21. Zach Noll led the Eagles with six kills, 18 assists and four digs. Also for Dover, Devin Crone had 12 digs and five kills, Alex Irwin had six kills and three digs and Dakota Dehoff had nine kills. Northern won the JV match, 2-0.

Garden Spot 3, Spring Grove 0: At New Holland, the Rockets dropped the non-league battle, 25-18, 25-12, 28-18. Caleb Becker had 12 assists for Spring Grove, while Evan Markle had six kills and five digs and Harrison Hicks had seven digs. Aaron Gunarich and Aaron Mummert each had six digs for Spring Grove. 

Reach Elijah Armold at