Those who have doubts about the Northeastern boys’ volleyball team and its chances of capturing a PIAA Class 3-A title this season surely are not fully aware of the caliber of the program.
After completing a dominating run of winning six consecutive Class 2-A state titles, the Bobcats are now competing against some of the best and biggest schools throughout the commonwealth this year.
While some may wonder if the Manchester boys can rise to the occasion, the Northeastern players have no such doubts.
“If they haven’t noticed, these past couple of years when we were winning (in 2-A), ... we won the Bobcat, the Koller and State College (tournaments),” Northeastern’s Nate Wilson said. “I’m pretty sure all of the teams in there were 3-A and 2-A and I know that we have won those. It’s not like we only played 2-A teams.”
Wilson pointed out victories against defending 3-A state champ North Allegheny, as well as vs. Central York, as evidence that the Bobcats are one of the best teams in the state, regardless of size.
Beating Suburban: While Tuesday’s showdown with rival York Suburban won’t add to Northeastern's profile of beating highly-touted 3-A squads, the match-up against the state’s top-ranked 2-A team can not be discounted.
After dropping the first set against the Trojans, the Bobcats, who are ranked No. 1 in the state in 3-A, rallied behind the play of Wilson and others to claim an important 26-28, 25-15, 25-21, 26-24 victory.
“We won, but we still have a lot of things to work on,” said Wilson, who finished with 27 kills in the triumph. “We were lucky to get out of here (with a win).”
With experienced players such as Wilson, Austin Richards, Alex Finch and others, the Bobcats are a tough out, even on nights when things aren’t always going as well as the team expects.
With Matt Wilson, the team’s longtime coach as well as Nate’s father, on the bench overseeing things, lackluster play is called out quickly and dealt with.
“He really laid into us (in the locker room),” Nate Wilson said of his father. “We made some mistakes and our perimeter defense has to get better.”
Nate Wilson a vocal leader: While coach Wilson has a penchant for getting his team turned around in a hurry during timeouts, the younger Wilson showed that he can shoulder some of that load on the court. After dropping the first set, Wilson helped the Bobcats storm out to a quick 6-1 lead in Set 2.
After getting the kill on his team’s sixth point of the set, Wilson could be heard telling his bench and teammates on the court "that’s what I’m talking about." For players such as Wilson, Finch and Richards, they’ve seen it before. But for guys such as Brady Lemen, Joel Braswell and Tristan Schraudner, seeing it on the court in person is the first step toward truly believing.
“Nate’s emotion helps,” coach Wilson said. “And I think that his physical presence helps too.”
Room for improvement: Tuesday’s victory over the Trojans was both important and impressive for the state’s top-ranked 3-A club. But by no stretch of the imagination was it something that left either Wilson feeling as if the squad has come close to its full potential.
“Yeah, we have some things we have to get cleaned up,” coach Wilson said. “Tonight I don’t think that we really played just solid throughout. I think that our perimeter defense was just well, well below average tonight. But somehow we still figured out a way to win.”
Koller up next: The Bobcats will hope to continue their winning ways this weekend when they compete in the Koller Classic at Central York.
Much like the Bobcat Invitational that they won two weekends ago, this weekend’s field of competitors is top notch. The hosts, who defeated the Bobcats in the North Allegheny Tournament earlier in the season, will be there, as will the Trojans. In fact, most of the top 20 teams in the 2-A and 3-A top-10 polls by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association will be participating.
“For our group that we have right here, we’re trying to soak up all these experiences against as many of the best teams as possible,” coach Wilson said. “My goal is for all of this to try to help us at the end, because we’re not there yet. We still have a ways to go.”
Notes: Zech Sanderson finished with 13 kills for the Bobcats in the victory, while Finch, a St. Francis (Pa.) recruit, tallied 10 kills. Richards dished out 50 assists while Schraudner paced the defense with 10 digs.
Nate Bowman led Suburban with 14 kills, while Declan Ridings chipped in 10 kills. Setter Noah Chojnacki dished out 33 assists to go along with a team-high eight digs.
Tuesday’s match marked the second week in a row in which the Trojans claimed the first set against the top two teams in the league – Central last week and now Northeastern. Unfortunately for Suburban, its early momentum could not be extended throughout the entire match.
“We cracked several times in this match,” Suburban coach Oliver Good said. “We gave up big runs in Set 2 and 3 and 4 in crunch time. And teams like Central York and Northeastern, they bring pressure, so we need to learn how to excel under pressure.”
West York 3, Dover 1: At West York, the Bulldogs won the match, 24-26, 25-13, 25-19, 25-17. Mike Washington led the Bulldogs with 10 kills, seven aces and four blocks. Also for West York, Alex McClellan had 10 kills, 11 digs and four aces, Tarren McGladrie had six kills, 11 digs and four aces and Jason McSherry has 29 assists. For the Eagles, Dakota Dehoff had 10 kills, while Owen Davis had five kills and 11 assists and Devin Crone had four kills and four digs.
Central 3, New Oxford 0: The Panthers rolled to a 25-17, 25-22, 25-9 triumph to improve to 6-0 overall and 5-0 in the Y-A League. Central was led by Kyle Mehl (six kills, eight digs), Matt Minkin (eight kills, four digs), Brock Anderson (six digs, 33 assists), Braden Richard (11 kills, six digs) and Eric Bowman (eight kills, four digs). New Oxford's leaders were Matt Faust (14 assists) and Cameron Krebs (11 digs).
Susquehannock 3, Spring Grove 1: At Spring Grove, the Warriors won, 25-12, 25-18, 23-25, 25-20. No Susquehannock stats were provided. The Spring Grove leaders were Peyton Wolfe (12 digs), Elijah Taylor (12 kills) and Josh Blymier (20 assists).
Dallastown 3, Kennard-Dale 0: At Dallastown, the Wildcats rolled past the Rams, 25-9, 25-12, 25-14 to improve to 5-1 overall and 4-1 in Y-A action.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.