The Central York boys’ volleyball team has yet to square off against perennial PIAA Class 3-A contender North Allegheny this season.
Nevertheless, the Panthers and Tigers certainly are no strangers to one another.
Combined, the two powerhouse programs have accounted for 30 state final appearances, with Central holding a 7-6 edge in championship victories.
The Tigers have been on quite a roll over the past two seasons. The defending 3-A state champion is riding a 45-match winning streak in best-of-five matches heading into Saturday’s 3-A final against the Panthers. The last team to knock off the District 7 champs in a best-of-five match was none other than the CY boys, who earned a 3-1 triumph in the 2017 3-A state title game.
History also is on the side of the Panthers come Saturday when the two sides square off at 2:30 p.m. at Penn State's Pegula Ice Arena. The Panthers are 5-0 against North Allegheny in state title contests.
“We respect the NA program for its long-term relevancy and look forward to any chance to share the court with them,” Central coach Todd Goodling said. “Sharing the court with them in a state finals match makes it even all the more special.”
The two teams last squared off in the state semifinals last season, a match that the Tigers won.
Northeastern a common foe: Both sides, however, have plenty of experience against a common foe — Northeastern. The Tigers split two contests with the Bobcats in the Koller Classic and North Allegheny Tournaments (both of which were won by Central). The Panthers, meanwhile, claimed a 13-12 edge in sets won vs. Northeastern after defeating their backyard rivals in the state semifinals Tuesday.
NA enters the match with a pristine 22-0 mark that has earned the program the No. 2 state ranking in 3-A, according to the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association poll. Central rolls into the final with a still-impressive 19-2 mark, but also the No. 1 ranking in that same poll.
While Goodling shares a healthy respect for the entire NA program, he feels like the result Saturday is very much in his club’s control.
“This year has always been about us,” Goodling said. “If we control and take care of our side of the net, meaning serve well, pass well and minimize our own errors, we are a really tough team to beat.”
North Allegheny standouts: Goodling pointed out a pair of Tigers to keep an eye on come Saturday. At 6 feet, 2-inches, Drew Hunker is NA’s top attacker on the outside, having accumulated a team-best 350 kills. Libero Trevor Treser has been quite adept at keeping the ball alive with nearly 500 digs this season.
In addition to Hunker, the Tigers feature two other attackers who have reached the 200 mark in kills this season in Ben Mendes and Alex Zubrow. NA setter Sava Topich is also among the state’s best at dishing the ball out. The 6-5 Topich has tallied 1,043 assists this year to go with 84 blocks.
Balanced Panthers: The Panthers feature a similar balance on the attack. Saint Francis University (Pennsylvania) recruit Braden Richard leads the CY boys with 426 kills as well as 122 blocks.
Setter Brock Anderson has dished out 1,022 assists this year, while tallying 101 digs.
“We have one of the best setters in the state in Brock,” Goodling said. “We ask him to do a great deal in running a fairly complex offense for a high school team. It’s complex in the sense that players are moving around to different zones and hitting with different tempos. Having Brock in a healthier condition than he was during counties has clearly helped the team’s progress through districts and states.”
Kyle Mehl, Matt Minkin, Prince Gabriel and Eric Bowman have shown a propensity to put the ball away if a team focuses too much on Richard. Minkin and Mehl each have more than 200 kills. Gabriel and Bowman have been terrific in the middle, with each player nearly recording both 100 kills and 100 blocks this year.
“In my opinion, as a combined unit, I feel we have the three best pin hitters in the state in Braden, Matt and Kyle,” Goodling said. “We also ask those three guys to handle all of our first-ball contacts and all have a major impact on our own service game.”
Libero Brandt Kelbaugh has done his share defensively with a team-best 321 digs. Mehl and Richard have also shown a defensive eye, with each tallying more than 150 digs.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.
PIAA CLASS 3-A BOYS' VOLLEYBALL TITLE MATCH
NORTH ALLEGHENY TIGERS (22-0)
District 7 champions
17th finals appearance: (6-10, won in 1979, 1987, 1991, 1999, 2013, 2018; last appearance 2018, won 3-0 over Hempfield).
Coach: Daniel Schall
Players to Watch
Drew Hunker: (outside attack) 350 kills, 66 blocks, 142 digs, 13 aces.
Alex Zubrow: (middle attack) 216 kills, 125 blocks, 36 aces.
Ben Mendes: (opposite attack) 217 kills, 61 blocks.
Jeremiah Zemet: (middle attack) 176 kills, 119 blocks.
Grant Jones: (outside hitter)126 kills, 79 digs
Trevor Treser: (DS/libero) 480 digs, 33 aces, 43 assists.
Sava Topich: (setter) 84 blocks, 176 digs, 24 aces, 1043 assists.
Common foe: Lost to Northeastern in Koller Classic semifinals and defeated Northeastern in pool play at the North Allegheny Tournament.
CENTRAL YORK PATNERS (19-2)
District 3 champions
*13th finals appearance: (7-5, won in 1975, 1977, 1982, 1985, 2011, 2014, 2017; last appearance 2017, won 3-1 over North Allegheny).
Coach: Todd Goodling.
Players to Watch
Brendan Richard: (outside1 attack) 426 kills, 122 blocks, 36 aces, 164 digs.
Kyle Mehl: (opposite attack) 227 kills, 59 blocks, 42 aces, 172 digs, 152 assists.
Matt Minkin: (outside attack) 256 kills, 67 blocks, 31 aces.
Brock Anderson: (setter) 32 aces, 101 digs, 1022 assists.
Eric Bowman: (middle hitter) 102 kills, 104 blocks.
Prince Gabriel: (middle hitter)124 kills, 98 blocks
Brandt Kelbaugh: (libero) 321 digs.
Common foe: Lost to Northeastern in regular season, 3-1 and league playoffs, 3-2, and defeated Northeastern in state semifinals, 3-2.
* Doesn’t include Central York predecessor, North York, which appeared in two state finals in 1948 and 1949.