DALLASTOWN — It's not how you start your season, but how you end it.
That's certainly true for the York Suburban boys' volleyball team.
The Trojans, who dropped three of their first four matches to begin the York-Adams League regular season, are a much better team now than they were at the end of March.
The proof came Thursday night at Dallastown High School in a District 3-AA first-round scuffle with fellow York-Adams rival Kennard-Dale. Back in late March, the Rams were able to survive a five-game battle with Suburban to pull out a 3-2 triumph.
There was no such repeat in the rematch.
The Trojans cruised to an easy victory in Game 1 before pulling out a couple of nail-biters in Game 2 and Game 3 for a 25-14, 25-23, 25-23 victory.
Suburban will be joined in the district quarterfinals by Susquehannock, which knocked off Red Land, 25-21, 25-13, 31-29, in the first game of the night at Dallastown.
Coach Jamie Evans' club will now have the dubious task of taking on York-Adams League and two-time defending PIAA state champion Northeastern at 7:30 Monday night back at Dallastown. Susquehannock will face Schuylkill Valley in another second-round clash at 6 p.m. Monday at Hempfield.
While facing Northeastern will be no picnic, Evans and company were able to achieve some satisfaction by downing a K-D squad that sent them to an 0-2 start on the campaign.
"I think we were recovering from (losing to) Central and were still trying to find our niche," Evans said of the first meeting. "It's been up-and-down all season, not skill-wise, but more emotional. Just trying to find that team dynamic that clicks. But it clicked tonight."
Junior setter Kaleb Ansell, who dished out a game-high 30 assists, agreed with his coach.
"We're a much different team now," he said. "Yeah, we lost to them, but we were able to come back and beat them here in the postseason. And that's all that matters."
The Trojans, who were edged out by .007 of a percentage point for the No. 7 seed by Susquehannock in the 12-team field, looked well-tuned in taking it to the Rams in Game 1. They led 10-4 early on and never were seriously challenged.
Things changed, however, in Game 2. After claiming an early 5-2 advantage, Suburban saw the Rams go on an 8-2 run to take a 10-7 lead. K-D continued to lead until the Trojans used a 7-3 run to close out a 25-23 triumph.
Game 3 was a bit different. Suburban was able to lead pretty much throughout. The Rams were able to tie it once at 7-7 and drew within a point on two other occasions. But serving to stay in the match, the team's final serving attempt sailed out of bounds to close out its season.
"(Suburban) just ran their offense a lot quicker tonight," K-D coach Jim Kern said. "And they just pounded the ball more today than the last time."
Two of the biggest reasons the Trojans will continue their season were seniors Liam Ridings and Matt Hogg. Both tallied seven kills, many of which came at key moments.
"They were great," Ansell said. "Liam had a huge game on the outside and Matt was great in the middle. So we're happy to give them a chance to play one more game against Northeastern on Monday."
Sepehr Vakili and Zach Weinstein matched the kill output of Hogg and Ridings, while Ansell led the Suburban defense with four blocks.
K-D junior Kyle Wooldridge led all attackers with 17 kills, to go with three blocks. Classmate Josiah McConville dished out 22 assists to go with four kills, eight digs and three blocks for the Rams.
"Hopefully this is something that we can build on for next year," Kern said. "We'll have a strong nucleus (McConville and Wooldridge) coming back. So we'll see."
Susquehannock moves on: While the Rams and Trojans squared off in a rematch of a regular-season contest, the Warriors were able to see a new squad across the net Thursday.
With five York-Adams schools in the 12-team field, the chances of facing a familiar foe is pretty good come district time. Coach Tim Bonitz and company worked hard to avoid that.
"We tried very hard to avoid getting lumped into that side of the bracket," Bonitz said. "And it's always kind of nice meeting up with a new team like Red Land. Last year we played West York in the first round and then Northeastern in the second round. We see those guys all year, so it's nice to see what else the district has to offer."
The Patriots desperately tried to avoid the sweep in an entertaining back-and-forth Game 3. Red Land actually had a couple shots at putting the game away, but each time the Warriors were able to win the point to stay alive.
"We tried some new things," Bonitz said of Game 3. "So there were a couple of wrinkles that we needed to iron out and that kind of showed in the third game. But it was good to see the kids trying some of the things we've been working on the past few weeks and kind of adding some new staples to our offense."
A.J. Schaeffer led the Warriors with 13 kills and 14 digs. Setter Stephen Rouse dished out 27 assists, while Quinlan Kauffman tallied eight kills and 10 digs.
Fortunately for Bonitz and his gang, Susquehannock will get to see another unfamiliar squad come Monday when it battles No. 2 seed Schuylkill Valley. The Panthers have faced other York-Adams teams this season with success, but Bonitz is hoping his club can knock out the state-ranked opponent.
"They played New Oxford and New Oxford played them pretty tight," Bonitz said. "But obviously we're going to have to have our best practice of the season (Friday), take a couple days to rest and recharge the batteries and be ready to go Monday."
OTHER BOYS' VOLLEYBALL
Exeter 3, Dallastown 0: At Wilson, the Wildcats dropped their District 3-AAA boys' volleyball opener, 25-22, 25-21, 25-23. Peyton Ranck (29 assists, 10 digs), Owen Terroso (24 digs), Aaron Ward (nine kills, 13 digs), Chadd Jones (nine kills, 10 blocks) and Zach Zerr (nine kills, six blocks) paced Dallastown, which finished at 9-8.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.