DALLASTOWN — If the Central York boys' volleyball team was looking for a challenge, they finally got it Tuesday night in the York-Adams League playoff final.
Taking on rival Northeastern, a team the Panthers swept comfortably last Thursday, the Y-A League regular-season champs raced out to victories in Game 1 and Game 2. The Bobcats, however, who won the league tournament the past two years, were not going to go down easily.
Coach Matt Wilson's club came together when it mattered to even up the showdown, forcing a pivotal Game 5.
The unbeaten Panthers responded after getting knocked around for the first time in a dual match this season. They took the early lead in Game 5 and slowly gained momentum with key blocks and hits to maintain the edge. When Cole Johnson (28 kills) went back to serve with his team up 9-7, he came up with a big ace that forced a Bobcat timeout.
Johnson's serving spurred a 6-3 run to close out a 25-17, 25-18, 22-25, 23-25, 15-10 victory. The title was Central's first since since it captured the crown back in 2014.
“It feels great," Central York setter Carter Luckenbaugh said. "What better way to end the county championship than to take it to five games?”
Surely Luckenbaugh would have enjoyed another sweep a little more, but he knows first hand to never count out the Bobcats.
“Credit to them to forcing it to five," he said. "We knew they would be coming on all cylinders. We had to play our best and were able to come out on top.”
The Panthers appeared to be headed toward another sweep of their backyard rival after winning the first two games comfortably. Johnson looked like the same dominant force he was last Thursday when Central swept Northeastern behind his 17 kills.
The Bobcats, however, responded behind Cole Brillhart (18 kills), who stepped up his game when it mattered most. The defending champs stayed alive like they've done several times already this season by winning the key points when they had to.
After Johnson's attack sailed out of bounds to end Game 4, an excited Wilson spurred on his team by yelling "Let's go win a championship."
Unfortunately for Wilson and the Bobcats, it was not meant to be. Wilson, however, was nevertheless impressed with his team's passion and focus after falling behind two games against the top-ranked Class 3-A team in the state.
“I think it was more about just believing," Wilson said. "At some point you just have to start believing that you can compete with these guys. We felt that if we could get through that that, 'hey, we're a good volleyball team.' This is a team that is still trying to figure out how to play in the big stage under the big lights. It was nice to see in a few days (since Thursday) to see us push this to five games.”
Braden Richard finished with 20 kills for Central while Luckenbaugh dished out 46 assists to go with 10 digs.
Wyatt Hughes tallied 16 kills for Northeastern while setter Jacob Cheuvront distributed 44 assists in the setback.
Central swept York Suburban it its semifinal match earlier Tuesday, 25-17, 25-12, 25-22. Northeastern beat Dallastown in the other semifinal, 14-25, 25-10, 25-20, 25-23.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.