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In order to get better, it's sometimes necessary to take a few lumps along the way.

Central York boys’ volleyball standout Cole Johnson has learned that lesson first-hand on a few occasions.

One of the most highly sought after volleyball players in the state, it hasn’t always been gold medals and first-place finishes for the 6-foot, 6-inch junior. There's been a lot of success, including his Yorktowne Volleyball Club 18 Blue squad which is ranked No. 3 in the nation. But, there's been some heartache too — such as a bitterly disappointing quarterfinal loss in the District 3 3-A playoffs against Red Lion last year.

Heading into his junior year, Johnson is feeling confident about his Panthers and their chances to win some gold medals later this spring, with a lot of that having to do with rebounding back from disappointment.

In high demand: It all starts with the club season, where Johnson has been garnering plenty of attention. Before joining the Yorktowne team this year, he wanted to play for them the previous year, but couldn't due to injury.

Perhaps that was good fortune as he now finds himself healthy and in high demand.

“The reason I wanted to play again with them is to get better college looks,” he said. “And it’s actually pretty cool to look around in warm-ups and see a bunch of college coaches watching the team play.”

That's definitely paid off, as the list of high-level colleges and universities recruiting him continues to grow.

“There’s a bunch of (Division III) and (Division II) schools looking, but (Division I) there’s Penn State, Saint Francis, Loyola, University of Chicago, USC and UCLA,” he said.

As a junior, he hasn't begun to cross off any of his suitors. That time will come later this summer.

“No official visits yet,” he said. “Not until after my junior year is over.”

Bright outlook: Right now, the Central standout is focusing primarily on bringing the Panther program back to the top of the York-Adams League. To get there, Johnson and Co. will need to get the better of rival Northeastern.

While Johnson knows that there are no ‘down’ years in Manchester, he is, nevertheless, cautiously optimistic about Central’s chances.

“I do think that it will definitely be a lot closer than it has been in the past,” he said of a showdown with the Bobcats. “I think we’ve gotten better in the offseason and we’re not all completely developed quite yet. I think we can still improve throughout the season up until that last match (with Northeastern).”

One big reason that Johnson is excited for this season is that it will primarily consist of classmates that he’s been playing with for several years. He’s hoping this squad will develop into the same type of club that won the PIAA Class 3-A title back in 2014. That team featured stars like Landon Shorts, Jeremiah Dadeboe, Royce Clemens and Jason Gardner.

While he isn’t claiming anyone on this year’s team is a duplicate of those standouts, the versatility this year’s group has could bring up memories of the 2014 crew.

“The team this year has really been playing together ever since 8th grade,” Johnson said. “I think that we all contribute to the different parts of the game in general. The team this year is probably going to be a bunch of players bringing in smaller skills more than just one big player doing everything.”

— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com

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