MANCHESTER — After an epic junior varsity contest to start the night, the Northeastern and Central York boys’ volleyball varsity squads had their work cut out for them if they wanted to top that show.
Boy, did they ever.
After the Panthers cruised to victory in the first two sets, the host Bobcats roared back. Northeastern used early runs in Set 3 and Set 4 to build leads they would never relinquish to even the match.
That set the stage for a winner-take-all Set 5. While the two sides kept things close for the first few points, the Bobcats poured it on late, claiming a 20-25, 21-25, 25-16, 25-14, 15-7 victory.
The triumph handed Northeastern the York-Adams League regular-season title with a perfect 11-0 mark. The Panthers ended the league season at 10-1.
“I think early on we were just getting into the flow of the game,” Northeastern’s Nate Wilson said. “I think in the first set we were just getting rid of the nerves, and the second set we were getting used to what they wanted to do. But we are pretty confident in ourselves, and obviously we never gave up.”
Slow start for Bobcats: While the mental aspect of playing in front of a packed house on Senior Night may have impacted Northeastern’s play, there were physical miscues as well. The Bobcats uncharacteristically missed nearly a half-dozen serves in Set 1 and several more in Set 2. Those side-outs helped kill any momentum.
The other big key was their block. The Bobcats were not in good position to stop Central’s one-two attack of Cole Johnson and Braden Richard through much of the first two sets. Richard led the Panthers with 15 kills, while the UCLA-bound Johnson tallied 13.
“We just turned it on,” Northeastern coach Matt Wilson said. “And by that, I mean we just played clean. We couldn’t buy a serve in Game 1 … we missed like six or seven serves, and we had two guys that didn’t even get one in, and they’re our top two guys. But things started to turn once we started getting some momentum.”
Momentum switch: That momentum shift happened early in Set 3 when the Bobcats raced out to a quick 5-0 advantage. Another quick start in Set 4 resulted in an early 4-0 lead that eventually grew to 9-2.
Digging a hole against a normal foe is difficult enough, even for a team as talented as Central. Trying to do that against a team such as the five-time defending PIAA Class 2-A state champs is almost impossible.
“We moved the ball around really well in the first two sets,” Central York assistant coach John Almquist said. “And defensively we controlled the net. But then we sort of let up. And when you’re up 2-0 against a quality opponent, that third set is difficult to win, especially in this environment with a raucous crowd.”
Rematch looming? While the Bobcats breathed a collective sigh of relief after rallying back to win the regular-season title, there is certainly an air of expectation that a rematch will be in the cards come next Tuesday. Both are heavy favorites to capture their respective semifinal matches on Monday before the finals on Tuesday night.
“The message to the team is that we will have a rematch Tuesday night for the county championship,” Almquist said.
Nate Wilson, and probably the rest of his teammates, are probably anxious to see that happen. That’s because the sophomore played in last year’s title game as a freshman, a match that Central York won. This year he’s hoping that his team will flip that script.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s always fun to play them.”
In addition to leading the Panthers in kills, Richard led his team with 19 digs. Brock Anderson finished with 39 assists and seven digs for Central.
Cole Brillhart led the Bobcats with 20 kills, while Wyatt Hughes added 13 and Alex Finch finished with 10. Setter Austin Richards dished out 50 assists, while Brillhart paced the defense with six digs.
Northeastern also won the JV contest, 2-1, taking the third game, 19-17.
Central York 13, Susquehannock 1 (5 innings): At Glen Rock, the Panthers improved to 18-0 overall and 14-0 in York-Adams Division I. Briana Smith pitched a two-hit complete game to get the win, striking out four. Taylor Sanders (three hits, homer, four RBIs, two runs), Natalie Craig (four hits, homer, three RBIs, two runs), Alexis McAnnaney (two hits, two RBIs) and Delaney Boylan (two hits, double, two RBIs, run) led Central.
York Catholic 15, York Tech 0 (4 innings): At York Catholic, Rebecca Baum pitched a one-hit shutout, striking out seven. She also had a triple, a double, three RBIs and a run scored at the plate. Other Irish hitting standouts were: Grace Gardini (four hits, double, four runs, two RBIs), Kelleigh Pollock (three hits, two triples, five RBIs, three runs), Annabella Ebel (two hits, run) and Demetra Conner (two hits, two runs).
Northeastern 7, York Suburban 0: At Manchester, Belle Bortner pitched a five-hit shutout to get the win. Northeastern, the York-Adams Division II champion, moved to 12-6 overall and finished 10-4 in league action. Northeastern's hitting leaders were Krista Anderson (three hits, two runs), Haley Updegraff (two hits, two runs) and Jiselle Castano (homer, three RBIs, run). Alexis Jury and Sarah Hartinger each had two hits for Suburban.
Littlestown 5, York Tech 0: At Spry, Luke Greisler and Nathan Chronister each pitched well, but it wasn't enough in Tech's loss. Greisler went 5 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs and striking out eight. Chronister struck out three in 1 2/3 innings, allowing no runs. The Tech offense had just one hit.
Kennard-Dale 4, York Catholic 1 (6 innings): At Fawn Grove, Ethan Phillips pitched a complete game, allowing one earned run and striking out six for the Rams in a rain-shortened game. Carson Fish had two hits and an RBI for K-D. Luke Kordaz had two hits, including a homer, with an RBI for the Irish. K-D improved to 13-5 overall and 10-3 in York-Adams Division III. With a win Friday over Delone, the Rams will share the D-III title with Littlestown. York Catholic fell to 10-6 overall and finished 10-5 in D-IV.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.