DALLASTOWN — Wednesday wasn't the most normal of nights for the Central York boys' volleyball team.
Setting errors, missed serves and even a yellow card directed against Coach Brad Livingston highlighted a number of unusual events in the Panthers' District 3-AAA semifinal contest against Hempfield.
Perhaps the only real normal thing that can be said of the clash between district heavyweights is this: The Panthers survived.
Hempfield rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the match by claiming Game 4 to send the tilt into a best-of-15 Game 5. The Black Knights even stormed out to a 7-4 lead in the decisive game. The Panthers, however, would not be denied, winning 11 of the final 16 points to claim a thrilling 22-25, 25-22, 25-17, 23-25, 15-12 victory at Dallastown High School.
The triumph sends Central into the District 3-AAA finals Friday evening at 7:30 against another Lancaster-Lebanon foe, Penn Manor. The Comets upset No. 1 seeded Central Dauphin, 25-18, 25-23, 17-25, 25-17, in the other semifinal.
CD and Hempfield will square off in a third-place match Friday at 6 p.m. at Central York High School.
"Coach always says 'pressure is a privilege,'" Panther senior Landon Shorts said. "That's something that I like to feel and I feel comfortable back at the service line during a big run or at crucial points."
Shorts, who had a triple-double with 30 assists, 12 digs and 11 kills on the night, had a big role in helping the Panthers climb out of a 1-0 deficit. The senior outside/setter clubbed two aces late in Game 3 that put Central ahead 2-1 in games.
The Central errors aside, the real key to the Panthers' victory was their defense. Six players finished with at least 10 digs, paced by 14 from Jeremiah Dadeboe.
"Their defense was just better than ours," Hempfield coach Mike Vogel said. "They out-blocked us. And that's the difference when you get down to it."
It was nevertheless a rough night in many regards for the York-Adams League runner-up. Central was called more than half a dozen times for double hits on sets, which stunted chances at grabbing momentum. They also missed five serves in Game 1, which played a big role in dropping that set by a 25-23 margin.
Those uncharacteristic errors caused some frustration to build up on the Panther side. It even got to Livingston. The two-time PIAA champion coach was given a yellow card after arguing with the officials about a call in Game 3.
"We had to get our bench calmed down, including me," Livingston said. "Of course, I probably did that a bit after I got carded. And we calmed down a little bit and made fewer mistakes as the match went on."
The Panthers showed glimmers of the team that cruised to the state title a year ago at the end of Game 3 and Game 5. Central won 10 of the final 11 points in Game 3 before winning six of the final eight points in the clincher.
"We started to rock and roll there a little bit," Livingston said.
The game marked a first for Shorts, a returning all-state player.
"That was my first ever five-game match," Shorts said. "We've won a lot of these in three or four, so that was an experience."
Dadeboe, a returning all-state hitter who came up with some big kills in Game 2, led Central with 25 kills. Jason Gardner, the third all-state member of the club, finished with 20 kills. Trevor Holderegger dished out 25 assists and finished with 10 digs.
Ben Nauman led Hempfield with 13 kills while three others — Chris Booth, Tyler Buterbaugh and Logan Smiley — each finished with nine kills. Setter Ethan Williams dished out 44 assists, while Nick Oleksa led the Black Knights with 15 digs.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.