RED LION — It’s been a while since the York Suburban boys’ volleyball program has earned a signature triumph.
While consistently considered among the top teams in the York-Adams League in recent years, the Trojans have hit their fair share of roadblocks along the way.
Y-A rivals such as Central York and Northeastern have consistently stifled Suburban’s chances of winning league regular-season or playoff titles. With the Bobcats, winners of the past six PIAA Class 2-A titles, now playing at the 3-A level, this appeared to be the year for the Suburban boys to finally break through.
The departure of Northeastern from the 2-A field, however, afforded an opportunity for Manheim Central as well. The Barons, who fell to the Bobcats in the past two 2-A state playoffs, took the next step by winning the District 3 title in late May over the Trojans, 3-0.
So would this new Manheim Central rivalry prove to be another roadblock that the Trojans could not overcome?
Not a chance.
Taking on the Barons in the PIAA 2-A semifinals at Red Lion High School Tuesday evening, the Trojans showed that they have what it takes to finally get over a tough obstacle, earning a 3-1 win.
Suburban rallied late in Set 1 to go ahead in the match and cruised in Set 2 before finding a pitfall in Set 3. Like a champion, however, the Suburban boys rebounded in force in Set 4 to pull out a satisfying 27-25, 25-20, 23-25, 25-23 triumph.
To face Meadville in state final: YS will now play for the PIAA 2-A title at 11 a.m. Saturday at Penn State's Pegula Ice Arena in State College. The Trojans will face District 10 champ Meadville, which downed District 7 champion Ambridge in the other state semifinal, 3-1.
“This senior class is special,” YS coach Oliver Good said. “And it’s what they do off the court and what they do on the court. They do a lot of the small things, like leading in a positive way and making the right decisions. I’m just so happy for them.”
Providing motivation: Part of the reason for Suburban’s success, after falling flat in the district final vs. the Barons, goes to Good himself. He and his assistant coaches and volunteers figured out a way to tap deep into the team’s motivation with a collage video showing the MC boys hoisting the District 3 trophy. Pictures of disappointed Suburban players with frowns on their faces were also prominently featured.
Clearly it worked.
“Coach got us fired up for the first two sets,” Suburban senior Nate Bowman said of the pregame video the team watched. “And (after Set 3), coach told us that we have to get our energy back up and we just ran with it from there.”
Bowman shines: Bowman, one of the standout players in the Y-A League this season, was kind of bottled up in the district title loss. So Good put a definitive challenge out to his senior captain to make sure it didn't happen again.
“I wanted for him to have that opportunity to shine,” Good said. “And he did that tonight.”
Bowman led all YS players with 17 kills, including the game-winner that sent the Trojans to the PIAA final for the first time since 2012.
“I just trusted my setter there and he got it to me,” Bowman said of the final point of the match. “I had a wide-open net and swung away for a deep corner and it worked.”
Contrast in styles: Suburban’s triumph over the Barons was a contrast in styles. The District 3 champs from Lancaster County relied heavily on the hitting of Messiah College recruit Mason Nissley, who tallied a match-best 25 kills. While the Trojans did ride Bowman, who will be Nissley’s college roommate next year, the YS boys also got big efforts from Luke Babinchak (11 kills), Declan Ridings (10 kills) and Harrison Perring (nine kills).
Doing it together as a team was certainly something that brought a smile to Good’s face.
“These guys have wanted this ever since their seventh/eighth-grade year,” Good said. “They knew that they had the potential to do that just based on their work ethic and their personnel. We knew it was going to be hard, and sometimes we don’t like to do it as hard, hence the district championship game when we laid an egg. Manheim Central played great, but we did not and I think that we did a nice job of correcting that.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.