Central York's hopes for an eighth state boys' volleyball title dashed by North Allegheny

Central York's Braden Richard, left, hits the ball while North Allegheny's Grant Jones, center, and Alex Zubrow defend during PIAA Class 2-A boys' volleyball championship action at Pegula Ice Arena in State College, Saturday, June 8, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

STATE COLLEGE — It was a disappointing day for the York-Adams League Saturday at the PIAA boys’ volleyball championships.

And a very disappointing one for the Central York Panthers, especially the nine seniors.

For only the second time this decade, the Y-A League will not be the home of at least one state champion.

After York Suburban fell to District 10 champ Meadville in a thrilling five-set battle in the Class 2-A title game, the Central York boys had a chance to help the state’s premier high school volleyball league earn a title in the Class 3-A contest against District 7 champion North Allegheny.

The defending state champs from the Pittsburgh suburbs, however, claimed their seventh state title and first one against the Panthers with a thoroughly convincing 25-21, 25-20, 25-20 triumph at Penn State's Pegula Ice Arena.

Central had been hoping to win the eighth state title in program history.

For the first time since 2012, when Suburban fell in the 2-A title game, the Y-A will not have a state champion. Northeastern claimed the past six 2-A titles, while Central added two 3-A titles during that span. The Bobcats also won the 2-A crown in 2010, while the Panthers won the 3-A title in 2011.

Central York vs North Allegheny during PIAA Class 2-A boys' volleyball championship action at Pegula Ice Arena in State College, Saturday, June 8, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

"Sour ending:" Central York coach Todd Goodling didn’t mince words afterwards.

“We are a much better team than we showed out there today,” Goodling said. “It was still a spectacular season for these guys but a little sour ending.”

Having lost just twice to rival Northeastern in four and five sets, respectively, the Panthers (19-3) suffered a defeat in a way that no one could have imagined.

The look of bitter disappointment on the face of Braden Richard, one of those nine seniors on the squad, said it all. His words only drove home the point.

“I’ll never get over this,” said Richard, a Saint Francis University (Pennsylvania) recruit. “What it really came down to is that we didn’t show up.”

While it was clear that the defending champs were certainly worthy adversaries, the way that the Panthers played — or didn’t play for that matter — was something that clearly confused Goodling.

“It’s really difficult for me to explain it,” said Goodling, who finished his 35th season on the CY coaching staff. “I’ve never seen our team react like that. I mean, we’ve battled back from some really tough matches. And even down 2-0 I kept thinking that we’re making it really hard but we’ll eventually come back.”

Tigers' defense a key: That moment never happened against the Tigers, who displayed the defensive tenacity of a champion.

“All congrats to North Allegheny,” Goodling said. “They played really well and did exactly what they needed to do.”

Central York's Braden Richard serves the ball to North Allegheny during PIAA Class 2-A boys' volleyball championship action at Pegula Ice Arena in State College, Saturday, June 8, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Richard, who finished with a team-best 20 kills, was pretty torn up about the way his team could not solve the NA blockers all match long. The Tigers tallied 16 blocks in the triumph.

“We couldn’t hit around the block,” he said. “And we had the opportunities to and we just didn’t. We couldn’t play our game.”

Expectations will remain same: While the Panthers will have a tough time finding players to replace the talents and experience of seniors such as Richard, Kyle Mehl (seven kills), Matt Minkin (six kills) and others, Goodling was pretty clear that the same expectations will apply for his program next season.

“We understand how difficult it is to win a state championship,” Goodling said. “But we always train and practice to win a state championship. And because we prepare for situation like (the one today), that just makes it all the more frustrating to have the opportunity, but not be able to convert it.”

Statistics: Drew Hunker led the Tigers (23-0) with 13 kills. Jeremiah Zemet, a 6-foot, 5-inch senior, finished with seven kills while Alex Zubrow and Ben Mendes tallied six apiece. Setter Sava Topich tallied 32 assists, while libero Trevor Treser recorded a team-best 23 digs.

CY setter Brock Anderson dished out 32 assists while Brandt Kelbaugh came up with 24 digs.

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com.