It seemed inevitable.
When District 3 Class 2-A champion Northeastern and runner-up Manheim Central were placed on opposite sides of the PIAA boys' volleyball bracket, a rematch in the state final appeared likely.
All that was needed was for both teams to take care of business.
To no one’s surprise, that’s exactly what happened.
Northeastern, the top-ranked team in 2-A in the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association poll, cruised through the first three rounds of the tournament, winning each match 3-0. That gave the Bobcats a sixth-consecutive appearance in the title match.
The Barons, ranked second in that same PVCA poll, took care of business by also earning a trio of 3-0 state victories.
Now the rematch of the District 3 championship contest is a reality. The two squads will meet at 11 a.m. Saturday at Penn State's Rec Hall for the state crown.
“They’ve been there all year,” Northeastern coach Matt Wilson said of Manheim Central, which has been ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 all season. “We know a lot about them and I’m sure that they are going to try to make some adjustments.”
Barons need to make adjustments: Adjustments most certainly will be needed if the Barons (22-2) hope to dethrone the five-time defending state champion Bobcats (22-0). The last time these two teams met up in the district final, Northeastern cruised to a surprisingly easy 25-16, 25-18, 25-13 triumph.
“They played fantastic,” said Manheim Central coach Craig Dietrich after the district final contest. “They were darn-near perfect.”
Seniors Cole Brillhart and Wyatt Hughes had big nights against the Barons back then. Junior Alex Finch and sophomores Nate Wilson and Austin Richards also played solidly in the sweep.
Coach Wilson, however, isn’t going to assume that his team will repeat their performance in the state final. While his team has rolled through the season — they’ve only lost three sets in dual matches all year and haven't lost a set in either state or district competition — Wilson still sees areas where his team can get better.
“I just don’t think that we’re playing crisp,” he said. “Right now we have to clean a few things up on our side. But I know that it’s there. It’s in us.”
The Bobcats cannot afford to lose focus against a Barons side that features a standout attacker in Mason Nissley. Nissley was limited to 11 kills in the district final, but he’s capable of taking over games single-handedly.
Nissley did just that in the state semifinal win vs. Cambridge Springs when he recorded 10 of his 15 kills in the first set.
After the district rout, Wilson figures that the Barons will play with big chips on their shoulders on Saturday. He’s certainly not expecting another three-set sweep that took just more than an hour to complete.
“It’s going to be a back-and-forth battle, I anticipate,” Wilson said.
Watching the match: For those who cannot attend the state final in person, there are a few ways to catch the action either on cable television or streaming through the internet.
PCN (Pennsylvania Cable Network) will stream the contest live through its PCN Select app that is available on cell phones, tablets and other devices. A one-day subscription to the Select service runs $12.99 or an annual subscription can be purchased for $34.99.
For those who subscribe to PCN through a cable TV provider, the 2-A final will air on the PCN channel at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. PCN is carried on either channel 95 or channel 186 for Comcast/Xfinity Customers in York and Adams counties. PCN is not available to customers with Dish Network or Direct TV.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.