If there was any doubt about the dominance of District 3 high school boys' volleyball on the Class 2-A level in Pennsylvania, those doubts have been erased.
The Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association reinforced that notion recently when the organization released its 2018 2-A all-state team.
Of the 26 players recognized, 11 of them hailed from District 3, including five starters from Northeastern, which has won the last six 2-A state titles.
The five Bobcats honored were seniors Cole Brillhart, Jacob Cheuvront and Wyatt Hughes, junior Alex Finch and sophomore setter Austin Richards.
In addition, York Suburban middle hitter Nate Bowman collected all-state recognition, giving the York-Adams League six all-state honorees. Bowman helped Suburban to a third-place finish in the Y-A League and a fourth-place finish in District 3 Class 2-A. Suburban finished the year ranked No. 9 in the PVCA 2-A state rankings. The 6-foot, 3-inch Bowman will be a senior next season.
"It's been the top spot, at least in the 2-A category, for the past decade or so when you look at the whole state," Northeastern coach Matt Wilson said. "In District 3 you have a Manheim Central, and you see what they did last year and this year (finishing second in the state in 2018 and making the state semifinals in 2017). And then you have a York Suburban, and you've seen what they've done in the past years. When you (take) York County and District 3, we've had kind of a stranglehold on the rest of the state."
Wilson's program, of course, has been a big part of that dominance. In addition to winning the last six 2-A state titles, Wilson headed the 2010 team that captured the state championship as well, making it seven PIAA crowns this decade alone.
With results like that, it's not shocking to find Northeastern garnering so many all-state honors.
Injury likely prevented sixth all-state Bobcat: Northeastern likely would've had a sixth all-state performer had it not been for an injury that Wilson's son, Nate, suffered during an AAU tournament in April. Nate Wilson, however, was included on the District 3 2-A all-star squad, along with the team's other five starters.
"At the end of the day I think that being hurt those three or four weeks with that wrist injury had a lot to do with it," Matt Wilson said of Nate's absence from the all-state squad. "But I think there's little doubt that without that injury that he would have been on as well."
Along with Richards, Nate Wilson will still have two more chances to make the all-state squad. Both will be juniors next season. Those two, along with Finch, will be the biggest cogs for coach Wilson next season when the Bobcats move up to the 3-A level.
Seniors will be missed: Replacing the three seniors — Brillhart, Cheuvront and Hughes — won't be easy.
Brillhart played at a very high caliber all season on the outside, while Cheuvront was terrific after moving to libero from setter. Hughes, too, made a position change into the front row after Nate Wilson's injury, while also becoming the emotional leader on the floor for Northeastern.
"Let's start with Jacob Cheuvront," Matt Wilson said. "To be an all-state caliber setter for a state champion team, and then have your coach tell you that he needs you to make a position change isn't easy. But Jacob turned out to be the best libero in the state. His first-ball contact was unbelievable and he really allowed Austin a chance to run the show."
Brillhart, who will play collegiately at the NCAA Division I level with Lewis University outside of Chicago next year, was strong all year long despite a drop in his overall numbers.
"He was the man to be quite honest with you," Wilson said. "I know that his production and numbers may have come down a little bit, but that's really just because everyone around him just got better. Without a doubt, Cole was the best player in the entire state."
Hughes, who was a bit of a mystery for Wilson heading into the season, really stepped up to make the Bobcat attack extremely lethal.
"Wyatt was our emotional leader," Wilson said. "We flip-flopped him with Nate to give Nate more of the passing duty and I thought that allowed Wyatt to just flourish."
Key returners: While losing three all-state players from a roster would nearly cripple other programs, the Bobcats figure to be right in the thick of things again next year, even after moving up to 3-A.
The Bobcat junior varsity team might have been the third-best team in the York-Adams League last year (behind the Northeastern varsity squad and Central York), so those holes will allow for some impressive talent to have a chance to show what they can do.
Wilson also mentioned that the upcoming freshman class has the potential to contribute a few more capable players into the mix.
"We have Nate and Austin back, as well as Alex Finch," Wilson said. "We also have Zech Sanderson, who filled in the middle at the end of the year, as well as a very talented freshman class that we're excited about."
District 3 all-stars: In addition to the six all-state players and Nate Wilson, the other York-Adams players selected to the District 3 2-A All-Star Team were Dover senior setter Zachary Noll and Suburban junior opposite hitter Declan Ridings.
2018 PENNSYLVANIA VOLLEYBALL
CLASS 2-A ALL-STATE PLAYERS
Peter Barbato, Beaver Christian
Lincoln Berger, Dock Mennonite
Nate Bowman, York Suburban
Cole Brillhart, Northeastern
Liam Buck, Ambridge
Ben Burkhart, Manheim Central
Jacob Cheuvront, Northeastern
Kevin Deshong, Ambridge
Alex Finch, Northeastern
Austin Goodsel, Fort LeBeouf
Colton Greenlee, Cochranton
Wyatt Hughes, Northeastern
Dan Hutchinson, Deer Lakes
Turner Kurt, Cambridge Springs
Joey McInerny, Palmyra
Aiden Miller, Meadville
Collin Nissley, Palmyra
Mason Nissley, Manheim Central
Tyler Osselborn, Deer Lakes
Charles Patterson, Bishop Guilfoyle
Ben Rachilla, Holy Redeemer
Noah Reisenauer, Cambridge Springs
Austin Richards, Northeastern
Tyler Sheaffer, Palmyra
Tanner Stauffer, Manheim Central
Andy Wooley, Maplewood
2018 PENNSYLVANIA VOLLEYBALL
CLASS 2-A DISTRICT 3 ALL-STARS
Nate Bowman, York Suburban, junior, middle hitter
Cole Brillhart, Northeastern, senior, outside hitter
Ben Burkhart, Manheim Central, senior, setter
Jacob Cheuvront, Northeastern, senior, libero
Alex Finch, Northeastern, junior, middle hitter
Wyatt Hughes, Northeastern, senior, opposite hitter
Konrad Martin, LMH, senior, outside hitter
Joey McInerny, Palmyra, senior, outside hitter
Brandyn Musser, Manheim Central, junior, libero
Collin Nissley, Palmyra, senior, opposite hitter
Mason Nissley, Manheim Central, junior, outside hitter
Zachary Noll, Dover, senior, setter
Austin Richards, Northeastern, sophomore, setter
Declan Ridings, York Suburban, junior, opposite hitter
Tyler Sheaffer, Palmyra, junior, outside hitter
Isaac Shenk, Manheim Central, senior, middle hitter
Tanner Stauffer, Manheim Central, senior, opposite hitter
Gabe Wiilig, LMH, junior, opposite hitter
Nate Wilson, Northeastern, sophomore, outside hitter