HERSHEY — If the Central York boys' volleyball team caused Coach Brad Livingston some heartburn during Friday's District 3-AAA title match, they gave their two-time PIAA champion boss a much-needed break on Wednesday.
Playing North Penn, the No. 3 seed from District 1, in a first-round PIAA Class AAA state contest at Milton Hershey High School, the Panthers never allowed the Knights a chance. Central won four of the first five points of the match to set the tone early.
That tone was enhanced by some great serving by the tandem of Landon Shorts and Jeremiah Dadeboe. Both returning all-state hitters from a year ago, the duo combined for 10 aces to help lead the Panthers to an impressive 25-12, 25-16, 25-14 triumph.
The District 3-AAA champs will now move on to Saturday's quarterfinals, when they will face a tough battle against District 7 runner-up Seneca Valley. The match's time and location have yet to be announced.
"I'm just happy to get out of here with a win," Livingston said. "And in three straight, we can go home and rest up a bit because Friday night and Wednesday night ... they were taxing."
The Knights proved to be outmatched from the onset. The Lansdale-area club only led by as many as two points early in Game 3.
"It was nice to not have a repeat of districts," Panthers outside hitter Jason Gardner said, referring to Central's come-from-behind five-set thriller over Penn Manor. "We didn't have to fight our way back in every game. We're just getting ready and polishing everything up."
Dadeboe put on an impressive display of jump serving early in Game 2. The senior secured eight points in a row from the service line, including three of his five aces.
"When he's on, it's good," Gardner said of Dadeboe's serving. "It's always good to get a couple of free points from him back there. And with him and Landon ripping jump serves, it really helps us open up games."
Livingston was even able to crack a joke about something that assistant coach Todd Goodling told Dadeboe before the match.
"He said, 'I'm having a vision that you're going to have a great game serving,'" Livingston said. "I turned to Todd and said, 'Why didn't you say that two weeks ago?' But J's been practicing every night and sometimes I think he just over-thinks it. He just went back, tossed it up, hit it and everything worked out."
Gardner led Central with 11 kills, while Hayden Wagner finished with eight. Dadeboe only tallied two kills, but shared the team lead in digs with Braden Neal with six. Shorts tallied 20 assists.
Now the Panthers are one step closer to the state finals. But they realize that from here on out there will likely be no more easy matches.
"If we can repeat what we did last year that would be pretty great," Gardner said. "We didn't drop a set the entire state tournament. We know we're going to get everyone's best shot because everyone is going to want to say they beat the defending state champs, so we just have to be prepared for that."
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.