DALLASTOWN — If a little doubt crept into the heads of the Central York boys’ volleyball players Monday evening, Cole Johnson and Braden Richard made sure to douse those uncertainties quickly.
Taking on York Suburban in a York-Adams League playoff semifinal at Dallastown High School, the Panthers took the first two sets and seemed in control. That mirrored the team’s early showing against rival Northeastern last Thursday in Central’s regular-season finale.
Northeastern, however, stormed back to win that match, 3-2, and claim the regular-season league crown.
So, when the Panthers lost the third game to Suburban on Monday, you had to wonder if it was a case of deja vu.
Johnson and Richard, however, made sure that wouldn’t happen again. The Central big men helped rally the Panthers from an early three-point deficit in Set 4 to even things up before eventually sealing the 25-20, 25-23, 20-25, 25-23 victory.
The Panthers, who finished right behind the Bobcats in the league standings, will get their chance at revenge at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Northeastern in the league final. The Bobcats survived a spirited Dallastown outfit in the other semifinal, 27-25, 25-11, 25-18.
Overcoming complacency: Richard, who led the Panthers with 21 kills, felt as if his team got a bit to complacent in Set 3.
“I think we might have just expected to put them away, but they came out fired up,” Richard said of Suburban. “And we didn’t.”
After falling behind 4-1 in Set 4, the Trojan players, bench and fans were sensing an upset.
The Panthers, however, were not about to let another 2-0 lead get squandered. Instead, it was Richard and Johnson (20 kills) who helped turn the tide, both with their play and their voices.
“We just decided that we’re not going to let that happen again,” Richard said. “We were determined that we were just going to bounce back up again.”
The final set saw each team trade points back and forth. The score was deadlocked on eight different occasions before the Panthers broke a 14-14 tie with a three-point run to take command.
Suburban drew within 24-23 after a side-out, but their final serve of the night floated into the net. That set off a collective sigh of relief on the Central side. The Panthers did not want to give the Trojans a chance to send it to a fifth set.
“They were very scrappy,” Richard said of Suburban. “And that’s something you have like about them.”
Bobcats triumph: While Central had some nail-biting moments Monday, so too did the Bobcats in the first semifinal. Playing on their home court, the Wildcats had a couple of chances to go ahead in the match by winning Set 1 only to see the five-time defending PIAA Class 2-A state champs rally back each time.
Dropping that first set seemed to break the proverbial back of the Dallastown players. The Bobcats stormed out in Set 2 before cruising easily. They then closed out the home team in straight sets.
Wyatt Hughes led a trio of Bobcat players in double-digits in kills with 13, while Cole Brillhart and Alex Finch each tallied 10. Setter Austin Richard finished with 44 assists, while libero Jacob Cheuvront led the Northeastern defense with five digs.
Central was led defensively by libero Joe Jones, who collected 24 digs. Richard finished with 16 digs, while Johnson tallied 14. Nate Bowman and Declan Riding each tallied 10 kills for Suburban, while setter Noah Chojnacki dished out 30 assists for the Trojans.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.