Just four matches into the league season, the York-Adams boys' volleyball race is starting to take shape.
At least four teams — York Suburban, Dallastown, Northeastern and Central York — have already proven themselves to be worthy of championship consideration. Northeastern is ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 2-A by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association, while Suburban is No. 4. Central York is No. 4 in 3-A, while Dallastown was ranked in the top 10 in 3-A to start the season before dropping out.
Several more — namely Spring Grove, New Oxford and West York — have also shown signs of improvement.
With the season reaching its midway point this week, it's still unclear who will emerge as the league champion come May.
The two front-runners at this point are really no surprise. Northeastern and Central York are both 4-0 after winning matches against both Suburban and Dallastown. All of those matches, however, were fiercely contested. A point swing here or there could have reversed the outcome completely.
“The league as a whole is much deeper this year than it has been,” Northeastern coach Matt Wilson said. “So when I look at it compared to last year or maybe the year before, it was maybe one or two other teams or maybe three teams that had a shot. This year there are four teams that are what I would say are on the elite side of the district and then there three others that are in the process of getting themselves there.”
Wilson would certainly be one to know about those things. His program has captured four-straight PIAA Class 2-A state titles and is gunning for a fifth this year. The Bobcats have also claimed seven of the past eight District 3 2-A crowns.
Season of intrigue: This season, however, has been one of intrigue for Wilson and his coaching staff. After graduating one of the most successful classes in PIAA history, Northeastern is turning to a talented but less-experienced starting lineup.
While there have been some hiccups — both Dallastown and Suburban pushed the Bobcats to five games in their showdowns — Northeastern has shown a championship-like composure when it matters most. They defeated No. 1 ranked Beaver County Christian to open the season while also surviving a gauntlet test to claim the Bobcat Invitational late last month.
Despite graduating a slew of all-state players, headlined by Ohio State’s Reese Devilbiss, Wilson can’t see much of a difference with an entirely new starting cast.
“I think we have four or five middles in our gym that are virtually as good as anyone else’s,” Wilson said. “We’ve got three or four outside hitters that are as good as anybody, and we have two setters that are both challenging to be as good as anybody. So we’re in a good spot.”
The Bobcats, however, are not close to where Wilson would like them to be. That’s not entirely a bad thing at this point in the season. Championships are not won in late April or early May, so the Northeastern coach knows he still has time to mold his team into the team he believes they can become.
“Winning the Bobcat (Invitational), which is a bit of a meat-grinder, I think really started to solidify, at least mentally, that all the pieces are here,” Wilson said. “And I’ve been saying that, but that gave them some proof. Now it’s just the consistency. Can we play with a state-championship caliber consistency for the rest of the season? And I don’t know yet. That’s the question.”
Central York may have a big say in some of that before the regular season draws to an end. The Panthers have arguably as much, if not more talent, than Northeastern this season. While the Bobcats were forced to five games against both Suburban and Dallastown, Central defeated the Trojans in three and the Wildcats in four.
If things remain on the same course as the season winds down, the season-finale showdown on May 11 between Central and Northeastern will likely determine who will claim the regular-season crown.
There is, however, a lot of volleyball to be played between now and then.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.