DALLASTOWN – There have been some ups and downs for the Central York boys’ volleyball team this season.
A win at the opening-weekend tournament at North Allegheny and two wins against York Suburban are a few of the highlights.
But a pair of losses against backyard rival Northeastern really stuck in the heads of the Panther players. Those losses gave Northeastern the York-Adams League regular-season and playoff titles.
After falling to the Bobcats in the Y-A playoff final last week, the CY boys made it a goal to capture something more important — a District 3 Class 3-A title.
Friday night at Dallastown High School, the Panthers found themselves on the verge of accomplishing that feat. Taking on a State College team that knocked off Northeastern in the district semifinals, Central was not about to be denied.
In a terrific battle between two of the best teams in the state, the Panthers displayed the resiliency of a champion. Central rallied back from a late deficit to win Set 1, and then earned a similarly close triumph in Set 2. The Panthers, however, failed to close out the Little Lions in Set 3. Instead of falling into a downward spiral, however, the CY boys dominated Set 4 to earn a 29-27, 25-22, 24-26, 25-15 victory.
That gave Central (16-2) its record 24th District 3 championship.
“This was pretty great,” CY setter Brock Anderson said. “I haven’t personally won (a District 3 title), but I sat on the bench when I was a freshman. And we lost last year in the semis so it’s just great to win it this year.”
Winning the District 3 title in a 14-team bracket that featured six of the top-10-ranked teams in the state is quite an achievement. And it certainly wasn’t easy. Wednesday in the semifinals against Cumberland Valley, the Panthers had to rebound from an 0-2 deficit to claim a 3-2 triumph over the Eagles, a team ranked No. 1 in the state heading into this week.
Showing championship pedigree: It didn’t look good late in Set 1 either. With the scoreboard showing an 18-16 advantage for State College, a discussion at the scorers table brought about a change to 19-15 in favor of the Little Lions.
No one, not even Anderson (55 assists), had any idea why that happened, but the CY players showcased their championship pedigree at that point.
After falling behind by five points (21-16), the Panthers huddled up during a timeout. The message from coach Todd Goodling to his team was clear.
“The coaches always make (getting over adversity) a big point for us,” Anderson said. “Mentally we have to get focused on the next point even if there’s a bad call or a bad play.”
Central eventually evened the score at 24-24 before eventually pulling out a momentum-shifting 29-27 triumph.
“We knew that we had to pick ourselves up,” said Central outside hitter Braden Richard, who finished with a team-best 34 kills for the night. “And that’s what we did.”
Alternating points: For long stretches of play during the match, the two teams alternated points back and forth. Only the team that was able to put together a multi-point run late was able to prevail.
“We wanted to first-ball side-out every ball,” Richard said. “But they were doing that too so we were just like trading points.”
After collapsing late in Set 3 — a set in which they held a late 23-20 advantage — the Panthers opened up a five-point lead early in Set 4. Instead of allowing the Little Lions to creep back into it like they did in Set 3, the Panthers won 10 of the final 15 points of the match to close it out.
“This tournament was an absolute blood bath,” Richard said. “I think (District 3) has the top four teams in the state. Fortunately we ended up on top this time.”
A boost heading into states: Now the Panthers will embark into the PIAA playoffs next week. Richard and Anderson are certainly hoping that final venture ends up with the same result they earned Friday evening.
“This is a real confidence booster for us heading into states,” Richard said. “I think we now know where we stand in the state and we’re going to show everybody.”
Matt Minkin tallied 19 kills in the triumph for the Panthers while libero Brandt Kelbaugh paced the defense with a team-best 12 digs.
Central will open its state journey at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday against District 11 runner-up Parkland (16-5) at Dallastown High School.
State College fell to 14-4.
Bobcats take third-place match: Northeastern (17-2), meanwhile, rallied to win its District 3 3-A third-place match on Friday over Cumberland Valley, 21-25, 25-10, 28-26, 25-22 at Central York.
The Bobcats open PIAA action at 7 p.m. Tuesday against District 1 champion Central Bucks East (22-0) at Bensalem High School.
Suburban swept in 2-A title match: The news wasn't as good for York Suburban in its District 3 2-A title match at Central York High School on Friday.
The Trojans, who came in ranked No. 1 in the state in 2-A, got swept by Manheim Central, 25-18, 25-21, 25-20.
While the seeding for the District 3 2-A tournament had Suburban as the No. 3 team in the draw, many area volleyball fans figured that the Trojans (14-4) were the true favorites to become the first team not named Northeastern to earn the district 2-A title since 2012.
Despite already owning a five-set victory over the Barons during the regular season, the Trojans were unable to replicate that showing in the district final.
Manheim Central used a four-point run midway through Set 1 to take the lead in the match. The Barons (15-1) never really allowed the Trojans to gain in any sort of a rhythm throughout the match.
While the setback was certainly disheartening for Suburban, the Trojans will have a chance to make amends in the upcoming PIAA tournament. The Trojans will kick off their state run with a battle against District 12 champ Lansdale Catholic at Lincoln High School in Philadelphia Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.