STATE COLLEGE — The York Suburban boys' volleyball team needed just one more comeback.
On an afternoon when Suburban pulled off an improbable rally just to force a fifth set in the PIAA Class 2-A title match against Meadville, the Trojans needed to put together another one to have a shot at the program’s first-ever state title.
After extending the match six times while facing match point in Set 4 and Set 5, the District 3 runner-up required a seventh.
Bulldogs senior standout Aiden Miller made sure the Trojans would not get it.
The 6-foot, 4-inch Miller slammed home the final of his match-high 32 kills to earn his team its second-ever state title with a thrilling 25-17, 25-19, 16-25, 25-27, 15-13 triumph at Penn State's Pegula Ice Arena.
“All I could think is ‘we won and it is over,'” Miller said. “Especially in that third game it just seemed like the ball was never going to hit the floor.”
Trojans bounce back after slow start: The Trojans certainly did not roll over after dropping the first two sets in rather lackluster fashion. Errors and sloppy play plagued the YS boys throughout the first set.
After seemingly cleaning that up early in Set 2, things got messy again after the Trojans pulled ahead 15-9. The Bulldogs (20-0) won 16 of the final 20 points in the set to take a commanding 2-0 lead.
“I really thought that in the first two sets that we were timid and not prepared to play,” YS coach Oliver Good said.
Instead of folding after falling behind by a disheartening two sets, the Trojans clawed back into the match. They dominated Set 3 before falling into another hole in Set 4.
After Declan Ridings (15 kills, 10 digs) earned a kill on the first point, the Trojans had to play catch-up the rest of the set, with Meadville taking control. Things looked especially gloomy late after the Bulldogs got a big kill from Tucker Watson to go up 23-17 in the set.
“I told some players to believe in yourself because I could just see the doubt in their face and in a volleyball game you can’t have that,” Ridings said.
Suburban doesn't go down without fight: That pep talk from Ridings appeared to work. With their backs against the wall, some way and somehow, the Suburban boys refused to give up. Instead they rallied to even the match with a pulsating 27-25 victory.
“I’m proud of the tenacity that they showed,” Good said. “How they dug in and refused to go down without a fight.”
That fight did not go unnoticed by the Bulldogs, who could only hang their heads and wonder if they just blew their shot at winning a state title.
“They did not give up at all,” said Watson, who tallied 11 kills. “I don’t think that our team could have done that in the fourth set. They were that close from being done and they showed a lot of fight.”
Bowman shines for Trojans: Nate Bowman was responsible for a lot of that result. The senior tallied the majority of his team-high 20 kills over the final three sets.
“I think that was just the fight that’s in all of us,” Bowman said. “That’s part of the York Suburban volleyball program, that there’s no deficit that we can’t come back from.”
Bowman and his team just needed one more comeback. Trailing 14-10 in Set 5, the YS boys won three points in a row to draw within 14-13. After a timeout, the Bulldogs got the ball to Miller with a chance to end it. And after six chances, the Bulldog senior capitalized on the lucky seventh.
“That was the best game that we played all year,” Meadville coach Nick Bancroft said. “The defense was awesome and we took care of our errors.”
Both teams were outstanding defensively. The Trojans tallied 89 digs over the five sets, while the Bulldogs recorded 83.
District 3 runner-up Suburban finished at 17-5. It was the second time Suburban had reached a state final. The Trojans also lost the 2-A title match in 2012.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.
83 team digs
10 team blocks
Aiden Miller 32 kills, 10 digs, 2 assists, 1 ace
Tucker Watson 11 kills
Brendan Leech 22 digs
Julian Jones 7 kills, 16 digs
Paul Leech 15 digs
Mark Conrad 5 kills, 10 digs, 5 assists
89 team digs
16 team blocks
Nate Bowman 20 kills, 6 blocks, 15 digs
Declan Ridings 15 kills, 2 blocks, 10 digs
Harrison Perring 10 kills, 2 blocks
Noah Chojnacki 1 kill, 40 assists, 22 digs
Luke Babinchak 8 kills, 2 blocks
Harrison Gettle 28 digs
Trevor Culbertson 15 assists, 1 block