After Thursday's convincing victory over Central York, Northeastern boys' volleyball coach Matt Wilson expressed pleasure at the way things are coming together for his Bobcats.
Bigger than his team's impressive 3-0 (25-18, 25-11, 25-11) performance was the fact that his team was finally at full capacity. The outcome was surprisingly lopsided considering that Northeastern came in ranked No. 1 in the state in AA by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association, while Central was No. 3 in AAA.
"We dealt with some injuries throughout the year, and tonight we were 100 percent healthy and it has been a while since I could say that," Wilson said. "And obviously being healthy and being able to distribute the ball was a big difference."
One of those players to miss some time recently was standout hitter Reese Devilbiss, who looked sharp Thursday in leading the Bobcats with 11 kills and two aces.
Wilson noted the importance of his healthy lineup getting a taste of some top opposition before it prepares for what many predict to be a lengthy postseason run.
"I said to the guys after 'This should truly be a springboard for us heading into counties and the postseason, because obviously the prizes get bigger,'" Wilson said. "Central's not going to look like that on Tuesday, or whenever we might play them. They'll be better. Too great of a coaching staff not to expect them to rebound. Too great of a roster as well."
The win gives the Bobcats (14-0 ovverall, 11-0 York-Adams League) a regular-season title and top seed for the upcoming league tournament. Central York (10-2, 9-2) fell to the fourth seed because of to tiebreakers, so a possible second-round matchup with Northeastern looms. The three-time defending AA state champion Bobcats have a first-round bye.
Early on the two teams were engaged in a back-and-forth affair, with Devilbiss and Central standout Hayden Wagner carrying the early action with big kills. Central seemed to find just enough room in the block attempts of the Bobcats and had their hosts playing somewhat defensively.
Wilson wasn't worried by the close play early on, knowing his team just needed a little time to settle into their familiar dominant form.
It wouldn't take long.
"I think early on you're just trying to feel each other out," Wilson said. "Both teams are coming in well prepared. ... So then it's just a matter of getting in a flow, getting in a rhythm, finding the speed of the game. And really you're just waiting for that first big punch to be landed."
That big punch came in the form of a 17-3 Northeastern run that spanned the first two games.
With Northeastern leading 18-16 in the opener, Brandon Arentz got the scoring spree started with a deep kill to the back right corner of the Panthers' side to make it 19-16. Arentz then later helped punctuate the first game with a nice dig to setter Matt Schaeffer, who teed one up for Devilbiss to slam home.
The Bobcats would then race out a quick 10-1 lead to start the second game before Wagner got a kill. The Panthers followed with a block to make it 10-3 — the closest they would come to the Bobcats the rest of the game.
Northeastern made sure there was little doubt in the third game by opening up a 14-5 lead before cruising to victory.
Those 16 points the Panthers earned in the first game before the tide turned would constitute nearly half of their total all evening (40). The Bobcats outscored their guests 57-24 from that point forward.
"I think we were pretty relentless in distributing the ball across all areas of the net tonight," Wilson said. "We came in with the mindset that this isn't just going to go to one player. If we pass and we serve well, we know we have plenty of offensive weapons."
Arentz finished with nine kills and five digs for Northeastern. Dakoda Hoffman added eight kills and two aces. Schaeffer ran the offense, finishing with 34 assists.
Central was led by Wagner's game-high 12 kills. Zak Kakos had eight digs and Cole Johnson added six kills for the Panthers.
League tournament pairings: The York-Adams League released the bracket for the upcoming boys' volleyball tournament Thursday. Northeastern is the top seed and, along with second-seed Red Lion (9-2), earns a first-round bye in the six-team field. The Lions earned the second seed thanks to a tiebreaker that separated them from York Suburban (9-2) and Central York (9-2).
On Monday at Dallastown High, No. 4 seed Central will take on No. 5 Dallastown at 6 p.m., followed by No. 3 York Suburban facing No. 6 Susquehannock at 7:30 p.m. Northeastern will take on the winner of Central-Dallastown match at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Dallastown High, while Red Lion gets the Suburban-Susquehannock winner, also at 6 p.m. Tuesday, but at Dallastown Middle School. The semifinal winners meet at 7:30 Tuesday in the high school gym for the league title.
York Suburban 3, Northern York 0: At Suburban, the Trojans won the non-league match, 25-14, 25-19, 25-22. Sepehr Vakili led the Trojans with 12 kills and three digs. Also for Suburban, Jack Schultz had 12 kills, Kaleb Ansell had 45 assists and seven digs and Gavin Dean had 18 digs. Suburban won the JV match, 25-19, 18-25, 15-13. Suburban improved to 12-2.
Dallastown 3, Lower Dauphin 0: At Dallastown, the Wildcats won the non-league match, 25-11, 25-14, 30-28. Aaron Ward led the Wildcats with 17 kills and 10 digs. Also for Dallastown, Peyton Ranck had 36 assists and six digs, Nathan Darr had nine digs, six kills and four blocks and Drew Scott had seven blocks and four kills. Lower Dauphin won the JV match, 25-13, 25-14.
Reach Elijah Armold at email@example.com.