York Catholic boys' volleyball stamps arrival with comeback win over York Suburban

The Fighting Irish beat the Trojans for the first time ever in a five-set thriller.

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

The York Catholic boys’ volleyball team officially arrived in the York-Adams League on Tuesday evening.

Sure, the Irish have been playing competitively for three years already — the past two as a non-league squad — and have already played a few York-Adams contests so far this year after joining the circuit this season.

The York Catholic boys, however, made a statement to the rest of the league that they are legit when they squared off against reigning Y-A champion York Suburban.

After falling behind 2-1 in the match, the Irish rallied back to stun the Trojans in a matchup of top-10 teams according to the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association poll. Led by big nights twin brothers John and Luke Forjan, the No. 7-ranked hosts found their groove in Set 4 and never looked back en route to a 20-25, 25-22, 20-25, 25-19, 15-8 triumph.

York Catholic celebrates in the fourth set of five against York Suburban during boys’ volleyball action at York Catholic Middle & High School in York City, Tuesday, April 11, 2023. York Catholic would win the match 3-2. Dawn J. Sagert photo

“It feels awesome,” said John Forjan, who dished out 41 assists to go with 20 digs and two blocks in the victory. “Me and my team worked so hard for this.”

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"This" was the program’s first-ever non-tournament victory over a state-ranked opponent, as well as its first win ever against the rival Trojans, who entered the evening ranked No. 8 in the PVCA poll. Suburban swept the Irish last year in a non-league clash (York Catholic had yet to officially join the YAIAA in boys' volleyball at that point).

Tuesday was a benchmark performance for the Irish, who make up for a lack of exceptional size at the net with a blend of speed and athleticism that is hard to match.

“It’s not going to be a secret for long that we don’t really have an option of just throwing the ball up high,” York Catholic coach Phil Autrey said. “We’re going to have to be faster. And it’s just like the girls’ game, where it comes down to the serve and pass, and I think in Sets 4 and 5 that was the difference.”

York Suburban’s Nathan Efiom-Ekaha, right, hits the ball across the net while York Catholic’s Luke Forjan defends during boys’ volleyball action at York Catholic Middle & High School in York City, Tuesday, April 11, 2023. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The tempo at which the Irish play proved to be more and more effective as the match progressed. The quickness of the attack often times left the Trojan block a split-second behind, which opened up areas for the York Catholic attackers to exploit.

No one did that better than Luke Forjan, who finished with 19 kills and 20 digs — which matched his twin brother defensively. John Forjan was able to get the ball to the outside to his brother as well as lefty-swinging outside Brady Walker (10 kills, 18 digs).

“We really won the serve and pass game, which really kept them (away) from the middle, where they were going to score at will,” Autrey said. “We were able to keep them out of their system and we were able to be just a little bit faster to exploit their blockers and get some kills.”

“I think on his serve, you just need to stay still,” Autrey said. “He has a serve that we don’t see and can’t really replicate at practice, so it’s going to take a while to get used to it. Once they were able to keep their center of gravity lower and more balanced, they were able to put the ball were John could get off a solid set.”

The home team also was able to adjust to the jump-serve of Suburban setter Luis Montalvo over the course of the contest. Montalvo’s top-spin serve takes a big drop late that resulted in two aces as well as a handful of poor passes.

York Catholic’s Nick Moir, right, hits the ball across the net while York Suburban’s Luis Montalvo, left, and Kevin Bryant defend during boys’ volleyball action at York Catholic Middle & High School in York City, Tuesday, April 11, 2023. Dawn J. Sagert photo

John Forjan agreed.

“Honestly, we just all regrouped,” Forjan said. “As a team, a lot of our errors today came from the mental space and, if we encourage each other, I think we can handle a lot of serves. His was really tough, but it’s not something that we couldn’t handle as a team.”

The setback was the second blow to the Suburban boys in the past week. The Trojans dropped a 3-1 contest to another state-ranked YAIAA foe — No. 10 Northeastern — last Thursday and have another big showdown with unbeaten Red Lion (6-0, 5-0) coming up this Thursday.

Trent Weinstein and Kevin Bryant led York Suburban with nine kills apiece, while Nathan Efiom-Ekaha finished with eight. Montalvo dished out 33 assists to go with 13 digs, while Connor Hays paced the Trojans with 24 digs defensively.