The New Oxford High boys' volleyball team entered the season facing an enormous challenge.

The Colonials lost five seniors, forcing them to build their team around the nine freshmen in the program. To compound their problems, they have just one bench player for the varsity team.

The numbers forced them to start three first-year players in a 25-7, 25-4, 25-9 home loss to Northeastern on Thursday night.

"We're in the building process," New Oxford coach Katie O'Brien said. "None of these kids have played before. They're learning basic fundamentals. They're getting thrown into varsity pretty quick. Whether they like it or not, they're there and they're going to learn leadership pretty fast."

The inexperience showed early against the Bobcats (4-2, 3-0 YAIAA I), who built early -- and big -- leads in all three games.

In the first game, Northeastern jumped to a 12-0 lead before the Colonials scored their first point. They brought the score to 16-5, but the Bobcats finished on a 9-2 run to win 25-7.

Northeastern scored 12 of the first 14 points in the second game, which it eventually won 25-4. The Bobcats jumped to a 10-1 lead in the third game before winning 25-9.

"It's a game of momentum," Northeastern coach Matt Wilson said. "If you can grab the momentum early, you're usually going to have a lot of success. I thought we did a pretty good job with that tonight."

New Oxford setter Joel Madina finished with a team-high six assists, and teammate Tyler Steckbeck had three digs and four kills.

Northeastern's Luke Braswell finished with 23 assists, three aces and two digs, and Philip White had eight digs, two kills, one ace and two blocks.

The night provided O'Brien an opportunity to set her practice schedule going forward.

"We're going to go in (Friday) and do a lot of passing," she said. "We're going to be talking a lot and more passing.

New Oxford’s Tyler Steckbeck goes to drive a ball over the net during Thursday’s game against Northeastern at New Oxford High School.
New Oxford's Tyler Steckbeck goes to drive a ball over the net during Thursday's game against Northeastern at New Oxford High School. (The Evening Sun - Shane Dunlap)
They do really well in practice. When we get to games, I think the nerves get a hold of them."

One benefit of giving young players this early varsity experience is they should be better prepared in the future.

"What you have there is a foundation to build on, which I think is the most positive thing you can have going for you," Wilson said. "There's a lot there you can build on, which I think she'll be pretty successful at over the next couple of years."

dpaulling@eveningsun.com; 717-637-3736, extension 139