It was only a week ago that some York-area boys’ volleyball fans went home somewhat disappointed that the regular-season showdown between Northeastern and Central York didn’t go five sets.
Would history repeat itself when those two rivals met up again in the York-Adams League playoff championship Tuesday night at Dallastown High School?
Not a chance.
Tuesday’s title match had everything that everyone could have wanted.
Big shifts in momentum?
After getting a scathing critique of their play in Set 3 and early in Set 4, the Bobcats got defensive. The Y-A regular-season champs erased a two-point deficit in Set 4 to even up the match with the Panthers.
In Set 5, the Manchester boys broke a 4-4 deadlock and never looked back en route to a thrilling 25-23, 16-25, 25-27, 25-22, 15-10 comeback triumph.
The playoff title marked the fourth championship for the Bobcats over the last five years.
“We did not think that we had control of this match at all,” Northeastern senior Alex Finch said. “They outplayed us for a majority of the night. We gave up a ton of leads, but our defense stepped up and we started making a lot more serves, which really helped us.”
Bobcats’ coach delivers wake-up call: The defense was a sore spot for Bobcat coach Matt Wilson, who yelled at his team for giving up early on a couple of balls that fell to the floor. Wilson scolded his team, telling them that the ball was not a bullet.
“Exactly,” Finch said with a big smile. “He said ‘let the ball hit you, it’s not going to kill you,’ and I think that really motivated the defense. They realized that we had to start making some plays.”
Plays were being made all over the court on both sides of the net all night. All five of Northeastern’s big hitters recorded at least eight kills, led by an 18-kill effort from junior Nate Wilson and 12 from Finch, an NCAA Division I Saint Francis (Pennsylvania) recruit.
“Get hit by the ball,” coach Wilson said when asked about his team’s defensive effort late. “And they really did pick it up.”
Libero Tristan Schraudner racked up 25 digs while Nate Wilson had 11 digs to lead the Bobcats.
“I think the rest of the group really stepped it up,” coach Wilson said. “We made plays and we had to.”
Panthers tried to accomplish reversal of fortune: The Panthers gave everything they had in an effort to reverse the outcome of last week’s 3-1 setback. After dropping Set 1 — a set in which the CY boys held a 19-14 lead late — the Y-A regular season runner-up rebounded to take the next two sets.
After falling behind early in Set 4, the Panthers rebounded to take a 14-13 lead that prompted coach Wilson to set a fire under his club. After dropping the first point after the timeout, the Bobcats ran off seven straight to take control.
Showing resiliency: Coach Wilson has been preaching for his team to show some consistency in their play against high-level opposition. Tuesday, Wilson got to see something he cherishes almost as much.
“Resiliency,” he said with a grin. “We’re starting to show some signs of that, and in all of our title-contending teams, the ability to be resilient was in every single one of them.”
The Panthers definitely showcased resiliency of their own in rebounding with a much better team effort Tuesday against the Bobcats. Had they been able to hold that late lead in Set 1, the outcome may have been reversed.
Another meeting may loom in districts: Could’ve and should’ve are things that can only be said after the fact. So the Panthers will have to instead look to rebound with a solid effort in the upcoming District 3 Class 3-A playoffs, where both teams could square off again, if they both advance to the finals.
“This was the match everyone wanted to see,” coach Wilson said. “And let’s hope we’ll see it again in districts. Let’s hope, but we’re on opposite sides of the bracket so I’d be OK with that if it did.”
Braden Richard led Central York with 24 kills and six blocks. Matt Minkin (15) and Kyle Mehl (11) also had solid nights on the attack for Central, while setter Brock Anderson finished with 45 assists.
Austin Richards dished out 51 assists in the victory for Northeastern.