History doesn’t always mean much when it comes to a single match during the playoffs.
It doesn’t matter if Team B has never advanced as far as they have right now. It also doesn’t matter if Team A beat Team B during the regular season.
What does matter, however, is how a team plays on one given night.
Monday was definitely a night to remember for the Red Lion boys’ volleyball program.
It didn’t matter that, as a program, the Lions had never won a District 3-AAA playoff game before last week. It also didn’t matter that Central York, the team they faced Monday, beat them during the regular season.
All the mattered was that the Lions were the better team for one night on Monday.
And they were.
Red Lion swept and upset the two-time defending District 3-AAA champion Panthers at Dallastown High School, 25-23, 25-13, 25-23, in a quarterfinal showdown. The Lions punched their ticket to the PIAA playoffs for the first time ever while Central York’s season ended on a hugely disappointing note.
“Every game is the most important game that we’ve played all season,” Red Lion senior Dillon Hildebrand said. “All the focus was on this one.”
Given the ramifications of Monday’s victory, the Lions and Hildebrand are now assured of at least three more games this season. The next one will come on Wednesday when they will battle Hempfield in the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. at Penn Manor High School. They also are guaranteed of a match on Friday in either the finals or the third-place match.
And then, of course, is a PIAA first-round match next week.
“This is crazy,” Hildebrand said. “I never dreamed that we would be here. But I think this shows we have a lot of potential. And I think it shows that we’re not a team to mess with.”
Central has dominated the Lions over the years. The Panthers won the regular-season meeting in four games while also knocking off Red Lion in the Bobcat Invitational in early April.
But things were dramatically different Monday, when the Lions played with an intensity and poise that is often the Panthers' trademark. Trailing in Game 1 22-20, Red Lion never wilted. Instead they won five of the final six points to take a 1-0 lead.
“All of these kids had it set in their sights to reach this goal,” Red Lion coach Rick Torbert said. “And they made it happen tonight. They came out of here with a lot of effort and energy from the first point of the match.”
Things spiraled wildly out of control in Game 2 for the Panthers. With a 4-2 score in favor of the Lions, a service error by Hildebrand was wiped off by an officiating error. That gave Hildebrand a second chance and the standout made the most of it, running off seven points in a row to put his team ahead 11-2.
“He was dead on,” Torbert said of Hildebrand, who finished with nine kills, one block, 10 digs and five aces.
That momentum never waned throughout the rest of Game 2. Soon enough the Lions, ranked No. 10 in the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association AAA rankings, were up 2-0 on the third-ranked Panthers.
The Lions continued to lead from the onset of Game 3 as well, before Central mounted a comeback attempt. No one was counting out the defending champs, even in such a dire situation. The Panthers rallied from an 0-2 deficit in last year’s district finals against Penn Manor before earning a 3-2 victory.
Trailing 10-4 early, Central stormed back to even the score at 23-23 late in Game 3. But a serve that sailed into the net put the Lions in position to close out the match. While it wasn’t won on a kill, Red Lion began to celebrate shortly after Hayden Wagner of the Panthers just missed the back line on a kill attempt.
“We knew that Hayden was going to be a big threat all night long,” Hildebrand said. “We knew that we had to shut him down.”
Wagner was hardly shut down. He finished with 17 kills. But the George Mason recruit and his fellow seniors were clearly disappointed after their final season was over so suddenly.
“I think we all just thought this was going to go on another two weeks,” Central coach Todd Goodling said. “I’m pretty sure that none of us were quite prepared for anything like this (happening) this evening.”
Goodling, in his first season as the head coach of the squad after spending many years as an assistant, felt bad for his entire team, but particularly the seniors that have been through a lot of changes over the past several months, including the removal of longtime head coach Brad Livingston.
“They had a lot of things pulled out from under them that was not their fault,” Goodling said. “They stuck together and worked hard.”
Cole Brillhart led the Lions with 10 kills, while John Longenecker dished out a team-best 20 assists. Central setter Carter Luckenbaugh recorded a game-high 21 assists.
OTHER BOYS' VOLLEYBALL
York Suburban 3, Palmyra 0: At Northern York, the Trojans won the District 3-AA quarterfinal, 25-17, 25-13, 25-20. Jack Schultz led the Trojans with seven kills and four blocks. Also for Suburban, Zach Weinstein had eight kills, Sepehr Vakili had seven kills, seven digs and four aces and Kaleb Ansell had 29 assists, three kills and three digs. Suburban improved to 14-3 overall and moved on to the semifinals and will face Daniel Boone at 6 Wednesday night at Penn Manor. Daniel Boone beat Manheim Central, 3-2.
Northeastern 3, Cocalico 0: At Penn Manor, the Bobcats won the District 3-AA quarterfinal, 25-12, 25-17, 25-9. Reese Devilbiss led the Bobcats with 11 kills. Also for the Bobcats, Matt Schaeffer had 28 assists, Jeff Reynolds and Taemar Willis each had six kills and Dakoda Hoffman had five kills. Northeastern improved to 17-0 and moves on to the semifinals. The Bobcats will face Lancaster Mennonite at 7:30 Wednesday night at Dallastown. Lancaster Mennonite beat Northern York on Monday, 3-2.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.