After defeating Blue Ridge in the District 2 Class 2-A third-place contest last week, the Abington Heights boys’ volleyball team was riding high.
For the first time in school history, the three-time Lackawanna League champs were finally headed to the PIAA Class 2-A state playoffs.
Unfortunately for the Comets, their "reward" for making it into the state draw was a first-round battle with five-time defending 2-A state champion Northeastern Tuesday afternoon at West York High School.
Be it the nerves of playing in their inaugural state playoff match, or be it the fact that they were taking on arguably the best team in the state regardless of classification, the Abington Heights boys seemed hardly prepared for what they encountered.
And the Bobcats, ranked No. 1 in the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association 2-A state poll, made sure to give them a quick lesson of what to expect, just for future reference.
The jump-serves of Cole Brillhart and Nate Wilson over-powered the Comets throughout the first set. While Abington Heights rebounded to play better in Sets 2 and 3, the Bobcats made short work of them by claiming an impressive 25-5, 25-18, 25-14 triumph in a match that ended in less than an hour.
With the victory, Northeastern advances to the quarterfinal round Saturday against District 1 2-A champion Dock Mennonite, which defeated District 2 runner-up Berwick 3-0 in its PIAA 2-A first-round match. The time and location for Saturday's match have yet to be determined.
The Bobcats finished the match with 12 aces, three of which came off the powerful serves of Brillhart, a Lewis University recruit who led his team with eight kills.
“I think that Cole has been trying to find his serve all year,” Northeastern coach Matt Wilson said. “And I think we finally found it tonight.”
Nate Wilson, who is Matt’s son, led the team with four aces, while setter Austin Richards, who dished out 28 assists, added two more. Another jump-server for the Bobcats is Wyatt Hughes, who clinched the victory in Set 1 with an ace.
While not every serve resulted in an ace, many of Northeastern’s jump-serves resulted in free-ball opportunities that the Bobcats cashed in for points.
“Nate and Cole are this team’s top two servers,” coach Wilson said. “We put them in there to start back to back and they really kind of set the tone tonight. Cole had some really good serves and Nate did a really good job, especially to get us started in Set 3.”
While the Comets probably learned a great deal more from Tuesday’s contest than the Bobcats, the match allowed coach Wilson the opportunity to get a handful of his younger players, mostly sophomores and freshmen, in a state-level contest.
“We had some guys that got their first real experience of state playoff volleyball tonight,” the coach said. “So now they have an idea of what it’s like, which could be helpful down the road.”
One of those who was able to take the court for the first time in a state competition was freshman Joel Braswell. The younger sibling of a pair of NCAA Division I standouts in Steven (Saint Francis) and Luke (Penn State), Braswell recorded a kill while getting a brief chance to play late in Set 3.
Central York 3, Whitehall 2: At Nazareth, the Panthers survived for a 25-22, 14-25, 25-27, 25-14, 15-8 victory in a PIAA Class 3-A first-round match.
Cole Johnson (23 kills, seven digs), Braden Richard (14 kills, nine digs, four blocks) and Brock Anderson (37 assists, eight digs) paced the Panthers' attack.
Central, the third-place team from District 3, now advances to the PIAA 3-A quarterfinals on Saturday vs. District 3 runner-up Cumberland Valley, which defeated District 7 runner-up Bethel Park on Tuesday, 3-2. The site and time for that match have yet to be determined.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.