DALLASTOWN — Ever since the Northeastern boys' volleyball team squeaked past Manheim Central in the District 3 Class 2-A semifinals a season ago, the Bobcats have been preparing for a rematch.
After a long wait, an encore performance finally took place Friday evening at Dallastown High School in the District 3 2-A final.
The top two teams in 2-A according to the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association state 2-A poll squared off for what many were anticipating would be thrilling contest.
Such would not be the case.
The Bobcats took control early and never really allowed the Barons into the match. Just 65 minutes after it started, it was all over. Northeastern claimed its sixth-consecutive 2-A district crown after dispatching Manheim Central, 25-16, 25-18, 25-13.
"This was pretty special," Northeastern coach Matt Wilson said. "This is our last time in 2-A. I think that we've left a legacy mark on the classification."
The Bobcats (19-0) will move up to 3-A next season, so before that happens the squad wanted to make sure they checked off a number of to-do items on the list.
While winning the district title once more was one of them, defeating a Manheim Central side that gave them all they could handle a year ago in the district semifinals was on that list as well.
"We had this game circled," Northeastern senior Cole Brillhart said. "We've been waiting ever since the semifinals last year. That was a pretty close match and we were fortunate to gut that one out, but I think we learned something from that match. We knew that we could play better."
Indeed they did. The five-time defending PIAA 2-A state champs allowed coach Wilson to rest his raspy voice for much of the contest. Wilson was forced to call but one timeout throughout the night, when he delivered a stern lecture after seeing his team allow a 19-10 lead in Set 2 dwindle down to 21-16.
"We came into this match prepared as much as we could," Brillhart said. "I think that every single person on this team was ready to go from the start."
Being prepared meant that the Northeastern players and Wilson had some tricks up their collective sleeves. A couple of slide plays and a stack play, in which one player fakes an attack in front of another, proved effective.
"We knew that they would be keying in on a few of our attackers," Brillhart said. "So we used a number of decoys in this match and that really opened up some things for our guys."
Brillhart was certainly one of the beneficiaries of those tricks. The Lewis University-bound senior slammed home 11 kills in the triumph, while fellow senior Wyatt Hughes tallied a team-best 13 in the victory.
"We all know that every single one of us on the team can be putting balls away," Brillhart said. "Any of these guys can play for any team in this state."
Those quality attackers give setter Austin Richards a number of options to direct the ball on any given play. Just a sophomore, Richards proved to be both smart and efficient with his decisions all night long.
"Everyone is a great hitter," said Richards, who finished with 33 assists. "They're all my friends and pretty much my favorites, but wherever the ball needs to go we're going to go."
If Northeastern is planning for a rematch with the Barons, that opportunity would only come if both teams made it to the state final. As the District 3 champions, the Bobcats will be on the top side of the bracket, while Manheim Central will be on the bottom half.
Richards didn't seem to have much doubt that they will not have to wait very long for an encore this time.
"I think we'll see them again," Richards said with a smile.
In the first round of the state playoffs Tuesday, Northeastern will meet the third-place team from District 2.
Central York 3, Lower Dauphin 0: At Red Lion, the fourth-seeded Panthers won the District 3 Class 3-A third-place match over third-seeded Lower Dauphin, 25-10, 25-17, 25-21.
Central improved to 15-3. The Panthers will now face the District 11 runner-up on Tuesday in a first-round state playoff match.
Palmyra 3, York Suburban 0: At Red Lion, York Suburban's season ended with a loss in the District 3 Class 2-A third-place match.
The Trojans finished at 11-7.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.