RED LION — This season has been noticeably different for the Dallastown boys' volleyball team.
For one, the Wildcats qualified for the District 3 Class 3-A playoffs, something the club hadn't done the previous two seasons.
For another, the program clinched its first state playoff berth in 12 years with a quarterfinal victory over Lower Dauphin.
While those differences are certainly significant, there are still a few things that haven't changed. That was displayed Wednesday evening when the Wildcats faced York-Adams League rival Central York in the district semifinals at Red Lion High School.
Coach Tom Beakler's team gave the Panthers a game effort, but in the end the Y-A League champs were again too much. Cole Johnson led the Panthers with 14 kills to help his team claim a 25-19, 25-17, 25-17 triumph.
Central will take on Central Dauphin, a 3-1 winner against Penn Manor in the other semifinal, at 7 p.m. Thursday at Dallastown High School for the District 3 3-A title. Central York is ranked No. 1 in the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association Class 3-A state poll, while Central Dauphin is No. 2.
Dallastown will square off with the Comets Friday evening in the a consolation contest at a time and location yet to be determined.
York County teams also excelled in Class 2-A, with York Suburban and Northeastern each claiming semifinal triumphs. Those two teams will meet for the 2-A district championship at 7:30 p.m Friday at Dallastown.
As for Central's triumph over Dallastown, you can count Beakler among those impressed with the Panthers.
“They served us off the court," Beakler saids. "We practice our serve-receive a lot, but they really served well.”
Central senior Grant Cash echoed that sentiment.
“It's all about serving," he said. "We're a pretty good serving team. So when we serve well we can really mess up (our opponent's) first pass. And that gives us an advantage and we get a lot of good kill opportunities off of it.”
Finding a way to get the best of teams such as Central York and Northeastern has been an annual issue of late for the Wildcats. No current player on the Dallastown roster has ever enjoyed a victory over either the Panthers or Bobcats at the varsity level.
“It seems to be," Beakler said in reference to his team's mental road-block against teams such as Central and Northeastern. "But Central is just a really good and solid team. Let's face it ... they're good.”
Good is just one of the many adjectives that Beakler used to describe the 6-foot, 7-inch Johnson Wednesday. The Panther junior was able to lift his team up with seemingly every kill he recorded on the night.
“Cole Johnson was unreal," Beakler said. "Too much Cole Johnson. He's a big-time player. I mean he's on another level.”
Johnson, however, was far from the only reason the Panthers were able to move on to the district final. Cash, Braden Richard and Ben Seebold each proved invaluable at key points for Central. But it was Johnson who came up big after the Wildcats stormed out to an early 6-0 lead in Game 3.
“We never really get nervous," Cash said. "Having (Cole) helps. He gets the momentum going by just being able to put balls away and score points.”
Because of Central's graduation being set for Friday, the District 3 championship contest was moved up a day to avoid any conflicts. As a result the Panthers will have to play on back-to-back nights to claim the title.
Cash, however, doesn't figure that will be an issue.
“At this point, especially considering the way we played tonight, I think that's a good thing," he said. "I think we can keep the momentum going.”
Richard finished with eight kills while setter Carter Luckenbaugh dished out 25 assists to go with five digs.
Ben Ward and Jake Bixler each registered six kills to lead Dallastown.
York Suburban 3, Manheim Central 1: At Dallastown, the Trojans pulled off the upset, 20-25, 25-20, 25-21, 25-23, in a District 3 Class 2-A semifinal. Suburban sewed up a PIAA Class 2-A state playoff berth with the win. Manheim Central entered the match ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 2-A according to the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association rankings. Suburban was ranked No. 5 in that same poll. Manheim Central also came in seeded No. 1 in the district in 2-A, while Suburban was seeded No. 5. Jack Schultz (19 kills, seven digs), Nate Bowman (11 kills, 10 digs), Nick Bowman (22 digs) Noah Chojnacki (28 assists, six blocks) and Zach Weinstein (eight kills, six digs, 21 assists) powered Suburban.
Northeastern 3, Cocalico 1: At Dallastown, the No. 2 seed Bobcats rebounded from a sluggish start to earn the District 3 Class 2-A semifinal triumph, 25-22, 22-25, 25-9, 25-17 over No. 3 seed Cocalico. The Bobcats, the four-time defending state champions, clinched another state playoff berth with the victory. Northeastern was ranked No. 2 in the state in Class 2-A in the latest PVCA state poll. Cocalico was ranked No. 10. Jacob Cheuvront (46 assists), Nate Wilson (13 kills), Wyatt Hughes (12 kills) and Cole Brillhart (11 kills) paced the Bobcats.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.