RED LION — Winning hasn’t always come easy for the Northeastern boys’ volleyball team this season.
While the Bobcats have still won all but two matches during the campaign, a few others have gone to five games.
That experience proved invaluable Tuesday evening when the Bobcats took on Manheim Central in the PIAA Class 2-A semifinals at Red Lion High School.
Splitting the first four games with the Barons, the four-time defending 2-A state champs were again in that familiar predicament of needing to win in Game 5.
Much like they did in triumphs against York Suburban and Dallastown during the regular season, the Bobcats prevailed. Led by a match-best 29 kills from junior standout Cole Brillhart, Northeastern will get a chance to extend its string of state titles after defeating Manheim Central, 25-23, 22-25, 25-17, 22-25, 15-11.
The District 3 champion Bobcats will face a familiar foe in the final at 11 a.m. Saturday at Penn State's Rec Hall. District 7 champion Beaver County Christian, a team Northeastern swept in the first match of the season, advanced after getting past Cochranton, 25-23, 25-18, 24-26, 25-18, in the other 2-A semifinal.
The Bobcats are aiming for the program’s eighth PIAA title Saturday.
The final point in Tuesday's thrilling affair came after a Manheim Central attack sailed out of bounds, allowing the Northeastern bench to flow on to the court to celebrate.
“It was astonishing,” Brillhart said. “I saw (the final point) coming and I was just like, ‘finally.’”
For Northeastern coach Matt Wilson, the roller-coaster season his team has been on definitely is in stark contrast to his recent powerhouse squads that dominated all-comers. Still, he’ll take it.
“Every year is a little bit different,” Wilson said. “But this is a very rewarding year for Northeastern.”
Many of the players that led Wilson’s team to the four consecutive state titles have graduated. So this year’s club is blazing its own path to success.
“A lot of people think that we’re trying to continue our legacy,” Bobcat setter Jacob Cheuvront said. “But I think together, as a whole new lineup, that we’re starting our own legacy.”
That legacy certainly will include winning matches in thrilling fashion.
Manheim Central certainly made things difficult for the Bobcats. The Barons were anticipating a showdown with the Bobcats in the District 3 2-A title game, but those plans were derailed by York Suburban in the semifinals.
Finally getting the chance to take on the top-ranked 2-A team in state, the Lancaster-Lebanon League power gave Wilson's club all it could handle.
“They had a lot of do with why we weren’t always at our best,” Wilson said. “I certainly give a lot of credit to them.”
Wyatt Hughes finished with 12 kills for the Bobcats, while Cheuvront tallied 51 assists in the victory.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.