EMIGSVILLE — As it usually does, the regular-season boys' volleyball finale between Northeastern and Central York held a lot of meaning on Thursday night.
For the third year in a row, the winner of Thursday's heavyweight clash at Central York High School would earn the York-Adams regular-season title.
Just as importantly, though, was the money raised during the contest that helped a pair of York County students who are battling cancer. More than $1,300 was split evenly between Northeastern's Marcus Josey and Central's Peter Falci, who were both named honorary captains for their respective schools for the night.
On the court, however, it was more one-sided. The Bobcats took control early in every game, battled back from Central rallies in Game 1 and Game 2, and ultimately prevailed with a convincing 25-22, 25-23, 25-16 sweep.
With the triumph, Northeastern, the two-time defending PIAA Class AA champion, earned their second regular-season crown in three years. The Bobcats will also have the No. 1 seed in next week's playoffs. In Tuesday's semifinals, they will face the winner of Monday's first-round match between Susquehannock and York Suburban. Central will get either Dallastown or Red Lion in the other semifinal Tuesday at Dallastown.
"We came out and knew what to do," said Northeastern senior Philip White, who finished with 10 kills. "We just played our game and that's what we did."
The Bobcats took a 16-9 lead in Game 1 behind the hitting of White and junior Reese Devilbiss (23 kills). But the Panthers, who are the defending PIAA Class AAA champions, rallied immediately after a timeout to get within 16-13.
The play continued to shift back-and-forth between the two state-ranked clubs, with the home team finally evening the score at 22-all. Devilbiss then elevated his game. The Ohio State recruit smashed back-to-back kills before a Central attack sailed out of bounds to close out a 25-22 victory in Game 1.
The script was much the same in Game 2. After Northeastern was able to grow its lead to 18-12, the Panthers rallied back. This time Central was able to gain a 23-22 lead late until Devilbiss did it again. Two kills, including the game-winner, came off the junior's hand, putting his team ahead 2-0.
"That felt really good," White said. "The first game felt good, but you don't really know what to expect in that second game. But once we won that second game, we got comfortable."
That comfort was readily apparent from the outset. The Bobcats refused to allow Central any chance to make a game of it. Northeastern led 6-0 and 12-2 early on before winning the clincher by nine points.
"(Central) really stuck with us those first two games," White said. "And I was a little nervous at times. Our serve-receive wasn't as good as it was in Game 3, but then we dominated."
The drive to close out the match in three games even got Northeastern coach Matt Wilson pumped up a bit. Wilson let out an excited howl during a timeout with his team comfortably ahead 11-2.
"He got hyped," said White. "And that was very fun."
Wilson, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the competition between two of the best teams in the state.
"This was two well-skilled teams playing pretty well," Wilson said. "And we were fortunate to come out on top in the first two and then I thought we finally could breathe a little bit (in Game 3) and relax."
Central coach Brad Livingston knew the visitors were going to be a handful. But he didn't expect his club would get swept, either.
"They're playing very well," Livingston said of the Bobcats. "They're pretty smooth operators. And I was proud of my kids for their effort."
Then Livingston paused for a second.
"But it would have been interesting to win Game 2," he said.
Rivals come together to help Falci, Josey: While Central and Northeastern are fierce rivals on the volleyball court, the idea to help out the families of Josey and Falci was a collaborative effort between the coaches.
Livingston got the idea for it in early April after hearing about Josey's diagnosis. While formulating his own plans, within a few hours, Livingston's assistant coach, Todd Goodling, sent a text message about doing something similar.
It all came together when Livingston and Goodling spoke with Wilson at the Koller Classic, a tournament hosted by Central, about the general idea.
"We said: 'How do you feel about doing something at the match?'" Livingston said. "And it just kind of grew from there. And we all felt that it would just be a great thing."
While both schools are fairly large in size, when a classmate or student struggles to fend off a disease such as cancer, helping out becomes a family-like task, according to Wilson.
"We (at Northeastern) try to take care of our own," he said. "And I'm sure that Central feels the same way about Peter. And it was one of the big, marquee nights for York County volleyball, and to be able to join forces on a night like tonight, and for a good cause, you can't get it much better than that."
Stats: Setter Matt Schaeffer dished out 32 assists in the victory for the Bobcats. The trio of Jeremiah Dadeboe, Landon Shorts and Jason Gardner combined for 31 kills for Central, while Trevor Holderegger dished out 14 of his team's 30 assists on the night.
OTHER BOYS' VOLLEYBALL
Dallastown 3, Lower Dauphin 1: At Lower Dauphin, the Wildcats won the non-league match, 25-15, 25-15, 18-25, 25-10. Aaron Ward led the Wildcats with 15 kills, seven blocks and 10 digs. Jared Barnett had 14 kills, eight blocks and four digs, Owen Terroso had 26 digs and Chad Jones had 13 blocks and six kills. Dallastown won the JV match, 2-0.
York Suburban 3, Northern 1: At Dillsburg, the Trojans won the non-league match, 25-11, 24-26, 25-19, 25-13. Sepehr Vakili led the visitors with 19 kills and four digs. Jack Schultz had 14 kills, four digs and three blocks, Kaleb Ansell had 43 assists, 16 digs, four kills and three blocks and Gavin Dean had 35 digs and three aces. Suburban won the JV match, 25-16, 25-18.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.