DALLASTOWN — Matt Schaeffer knows a little something about the importance of experience for a younger player in the Northeastern boys’ volleyball program.
It was just two years ago when the Bobcat senior standout was called into duty as a sophomore to fill in for his team’s injured setter, Luke Braswell. The experiences gained during that time certainly helped shape him into the all-state-caliber player that he's become.
With a team filled with seven seniors — most of whom made the all-state team a season ago — it’s not easy for the younger guys to find valuable playing time in meaningful situations this year. Nearly all of the Northeastern matches this season went just three games, which limits the opportunities even more.
Head coach Matt Wilson, however, has been adept at finding ways to get his younger athletes playing time. That's vital, since they'll become the core of next year’s club. Such was the case Wednesday evening when the Bobcats faced Lancaster Mennonite in a District 3-AA semifinal contest at Dallastown High School.
It was clear from the onset that the three-time defending PIAA state champions would have little difficulty with the Blazers. That allowed Wilson a chance to rotate in some new players during the middle-to-late stages of each game in what was a 25-8, 25-9, 25-15 triumph.
“We have a lot of seniors this year,” said Schaeffer, a Juniata College recruit. “And we like to get them as much experience as possible. I was in the same exact spot (two years ago). They get it in practice against us, but it’s a little bit different in a game.”
The stat sheet showed that to be true for Northeastern, which will face York-Adams rival York Suburban at 6 p.m. Friday at Dallastown in the District 3-AA championship final. In total, there were 11 Bobcats to register a point in the match.
That list includes players who will be key a year from now. Guys such as James Toomey, Wyatt Hughes, Taemar Willis, Nate Eyster, Braxton Sowers and Dakoda Hoffman, who is already a starter.
“(Hoffman) actually didn’t get as much experience as everyone else when he was younger,” Schaeffer said. “But this year he just steps in seamlessly. We worked really hard in the offseason. He has the height and he’s really athletic. He’s playing really well for us.”
Wilson took it a step further.
“Dakoda is that piece of the puzzle that fit in nicely coming into this season,” he said. “He complements Reese (Devilbiss) really well. He’s an all-star in his own right. He’s playing with the caliber of an all-state player.”
Playing time may be less available for the Northeastern reserves Friday when the Bobcats will battle a Suburban squad that figures to give them their biggest challenge of the year to date. The Bobcats did sweep the Trojans during the regular season, but a couple of the Suburban starters missed that contest because of disciplinary measures.
“They will have a few of their players back from suspension,” said Schaeffer, who dished out 30 assists. “But we really want to play them. I’m sure it will be a really good game.”
Jeff Reynolds led Northeastern with 10 kills, while Ohio State recruit Devilbiss finished with eight.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.