Lancaster Mennonite saw all it needed in two games to get an idea of how dominant the Northeastern boys' volleyball team can be.
Unfortunately for Cocalico, it had to stick around for all three.
The top-seeded Bobcats had little trouble dispatching the Eagles in straight games on Wednesday night at Central York High School, 25-10, 25-6, 25-15, to advance to the District 3-AA championship match against the Blazers on Friday night.
With all eyes from Cocalico centered on Northeastern's standout outside hitter, Reese Devilbiss, the Bobcats used their many other options to get off to a fast start in the semifinal match.
"I think it's probably not as much Reese, so much, as it is the squad," Northeastern coach Matt Wilson said. "If you've taken notice over the past 3 1/2 weeks, Reese's stat line has diminished quite a bit, to be honest with you, from, anywhere between 60-70 percent of the offense to, now, he's in that 30 percent range."
The Bobcats' offense was essentially a pick-your-poison situation for the Eagles.
Northeastern's attack ranged anywhere from slamming it down Cocalico's throats with menacing kills to hard-to-handle serves to stingy defense that kept the ball in play until the Eagles finally made a mistake. The Bobcats had five players register kills, with three finishing at least five of the attempts.
But when it was time for Devilbiss to show why he's one of the best boys' volleyball players in the state, he did so in impressive fashion.
After Northeastern polished off the first game by winning 20 of the final 26 points, Devilbiss immediately kept the momentum in his team's favor.
After winning the first point of the second game off of Cocalico's serve, Devilbiss served out the next 13 points to give the Bobcats a 14-0 lead before finally surrendering a point to the Eagles.
"Personally, that's my best run on the service line," he said. "...Once we go on a run, our coach preaches to stay on them and keep the pressure on them and don't let up until the match ends."
While the scoreline may indicate that the match was one-sided, there was another letup in the third game for Northeastern, something that's becoming a common theme in recent matches. After being forced to call a timeout in Monday's quarterfinal match during the third game against York Suburban, Wilson was on the brink of having to do the same in Wednesday's match.
Despite the easy second-game win, the Bobcats took their foot off the gas pedal to open the third game, allowing Cocalico to carry the play and take a 13-12 lead. Finally, after a few costly mistakes woke up Northeastern, it went on a 6-0 run to open up an 18-13 advantage, forcing an Eagles timeout and regaining control of the match. The Bobcats only lost two more points the rest of the match following the timeout, but the recurring slow starts to third games is starting to raise concern for Wilson.
"It's a pretty mature team at this point, who's done an awful lot in their careers, but still a young team, with a bunch of juniors," he said. "I can't answer the game three scenario. I remind, I beg, I plead and I think next time I'll just shut my mouth and see maybe I'm getting in the way. It's an issue and that issue could really creep up on us at a really bad, inopportune moment."
It didn't cost Northeastern on Wednesday night, but really nothing could. Phil White led the Bobcats with 13 kills, followed by Devilbiss' nine and Jeff Reynolds' five. Devilbiss also came away with nine aces, while Matt Schaeffer passed his way to 25 assists.
Now, the Bobcats shift their focus to Lancaster Mennonite, which defeated Schuylkill Valley, 3-1, before the Northeastern match.
"They're well-coached, well-skilled," Wilson said about the Blazers. "Probably one of the best defensive teams that you'll run into. They're not afraid to get in front of a ball."
Friday's final is set for 6 p.m. at Dallastown High School.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org