SPRING GROVE — Tom Beakler sure knows a thing or two about high school boys’ volleyball.
One of those things is that championships aren’t won in late March or early April.
So when the 71-year-old coach came out of retirement this year after a nearly 15-year hiatus and found out that his new team, Dallastown, was ranked in the top 10 in the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association Class 3-A preseason poll, he didn’t give it much credence.
“Rankings are for you guys in the media,” Beakler said shortly after his Wildcats swept Spring Grove, 25-14, 30-28, 25-19 Thursday evening. “I was actually one of the originators of the rankings. So we explained the rankings to the kids and what they mean and how much to pay attention to them.”
His team fell in its first match of the season against Central Dauphin, ranked No. 3 in 3-A, before sweeping past New Oxford and then falling to his former team, Northeastern, which is ranked No. 1 in 2-A, in a five-game marathon Tuesday.
It’s not how you start that matters, however, it’s how you finish.
Beakler, who coached Northeastern to back-to-back PIAA titles in 1992 and 1993, is somewhat satisfied with what he’s seen so far from his Dallastown squad.
At the same time, he certainly doesn’t feel like the Wildcats are anywhere near their potential.
“We’re going to improve,” he said with a bit of a smile. “I’ve never really pushed my teams to be great early. I push my teams to improve each match and I think they’re doing that and I think they understand.”
Beakler is looking forward to increasing the practice intensity as the season moves on, with the goal of making the District 3 playoffs. The Wildcats were edged out of the district playoffs the previous season despite a 7-4 league record.
“We’re going to go harder at practice,” Beakler said. “I don’t think we’re anywhere close to where we will be. We work very hard and we try to ramp up those practices the whole year.”
A rematch with Northeastern down the road is another goal for the PVCA Hall of Famer and his squad. The Wildcats went up 2-0 in the match with the Bobcats only to drop the final three.
“The gym was electric and we obviously started out well,” Beakler said of Tuesday’s match. “But then, the way it always does, we started having trouble and had some breakdowns with passing. Probably 60-70 percent of teams, especially in high school, when they break down, it's with passing. And obviously Northeastern is probably as good as anyone we’ll see in the state, but we’ll want to play them again.”
Beakler’s club got back on the winning track against the Rockets without its starting setter, Peyton Ranck. While there were a few hiccups here and there, Mason Figdore stepped up and filled Ranck’s shoes. Figdore dished out 36 assists, which impressed Beakler.
“Mason stepped in and did a great job for us,” Beakler said.
Ben Ward led the Dallastown attack with 10 kills and 3½ blocks, while Jake Bixler added another eight kills to go with 5½ blocks. Drew Scott led all players with six blocks for the Wildcats.
Mason Staub led Spring Grove (3-1) with six kills, while setter Luke Hoffnagle dished out 23 assists.
Both teams are now 2-1 in York-Adams League action.
Central York 3, New Oxford 0: At Central York, the Panthers rolled, 25-6, 25-13, 25-17. Ben Seebold led the Panthers with 12 kills, four aces and three digs. Also for Central, Cole Johnson had eight kills and four digs, Braden Richard had six kills and Carter Luckenbaugh had 29 assists and three digs. The Panthers won the JV match, 25-7, 25-17.
Northeastern 3, Susquehannock 0: At Manchester, the Bobcats won, 25-3, 25-13, 25-13. Cole Brillhart led the Bobcats with seven kills and four aces. Also for the Bobcats, Jacob Cheuvront had 32 assists, Wyatt Hughes had six kills and Dakoda Hoffman had five kills.
West York 3, Dover 0: At West York, the Bulldogs captured the match, 25-18, 25-18, 25-20. Kenton Meckley led the home team with 10 kills and eight blocks. Also for West York, Jacob May had 20 assists and five digs, Sam Lovelace had four kills, four digs and four blocks and Justin Myers had five kills and three blocks. For the Eagles, Hunter Shank had five kills, five digs and three aces, while Dalton Boll had six kills and four digs and Zach Noll had 11 assists and three digs. Dover won the JV match, 2-0.
Red Lion 3, Eastern York 1: At Red Lion, the Lions won, 25-13, 26-28, 25-23, 25-15. Tristan Fuentes led the Lions with nine kills and four digs. Also for the Lions, Blake Hildebrand had five kills and six aces, John Janiwiac had six kills and four blocks and Colby Myers had 12 digs and five aces. For the Golden Knights, Ben Leaman had six kills and eight digs, while Greg Houck had 16 assists and three digs and Koury Green had seven kills, three digs and four blocks. Red Lion won the JV match, 2-0.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.