The passing was crisp, the service game was red-hot and the hits crashed to floor. The defense was brilliant and the wall of blocks was tough to stop. That was, until things changed in the second game of the final match against Red Land, when the Patriots played with the desperation of their season being on the line.
By winning the pool, Suburban's District 3 semifinal opponent will be a familiar one in YAIAA rival Northeastern, beginning at 6 p.m. Friday at Central York.
In fact, three of the four semifinal teams are from the YAIAA. The Bobcats finished second to Dover in Pool A, played at Wilson on Wednesday. The Eagles face Manheim Central in Friday's other semifinal, with the winners advancing to the ensuing championship
"It's good that we know them, yet they know us," Trojans coach Jamie Evans said. "I think it's good for our league. I am happy for our league."
Although Suburban's ticket to the semifinals was already punched after its one-sided, 25-8, 25-13, 25-13 win against Wyomissing in the second match of pool play, the last thing Evans and Co. wanted to do was head into that with a loss.
Yet when the Patriots took a 21-17 lead in the final game, that scenario looked likely. But the Trojans scored four straight points, none bigger than Jacob Kauffman's win of a 50-50 ball at the net that cut Red Land's lead to 21-20.
After Suburban tied the game, the Pats responded with two straight points, only to see the Trojans tie it back up. The teams traded game points, including Red Land at 27-26. However, Jaryd Eshler dropped a kill, Kauffman followed with another and the match ended when Zach Prexta's kill attempt landed in the net.
"I think the key was we had to get our passing to target without them knowing where it is going," Kauffman said. "I think we are definitely going to build off this game tonight ... I think we just had a letdown that game. We got tired and didn't want to play."
"A really good test," Evans said of the Red Land match. "I think we can only learn from this -- not to let down. I hope that is a lesson learned that we have to finish. I think they got tired a little bit.
"It's hard," he said. "We know from a tournament how hard it is to play consistent throughout the day. Here you are asking for nine games in three hours. We got a little relaxed at the end of the first game, and they were fighting for it."
It was an emotional match for the senior Prexta, who went to school through ninth grade at York Suburban. With many friends, former teammates and even current club teammates on the other side, Prexta was terrific against the Trojans and recorded the 1,000th kill of his career during the final game.
"It was awesome. I know all the guys, it's a whole different feeling (against them)," Prexta said. "I had a very good high school volleyball career. It was a lot of fun."
Kauffman finished the nine games with 19 kills, five blocks and 10 digs. Eshler led the way with 31 kills, three blocks and 21 digs. Kody Deiter dished out 88 assists to go along with four kills, 28 kills and seven aces.
Suburban won the opening match with ease, 15-16, 25-14, 25-11 against Manheim Central, although the Barons rebounded to beat Red Land and Wyomissing to advance to Friday.
Wednesday's Class AA Matches
Quarterfinal Pool Play
at Wilson H.S.
Northeastern def. Berks Catholic, 25-17, 25-23, 25-18
Dover def. Lancaster Mennonite, 25-17, 25-20, 26-24
Dover def. Berks Catholic, 25-16, 25-12, 25-18
Northeastern def. Lancaster Mennonite, 25-14, 27-25, 25-21
Berks Catholic def. Lancaster Mennonite, 26-24, 25-21, 25-22
Dover def. Northeastern, 25-23, 25-16, 25-18
Standings: Dover 3-0 (9-0), Northeastern 2-1 (6-3), Berks Catholic 1-2 (3-6), Lancaster Mennonite 0-3 (0-9)
York Suburban def. Manheim Central, 25-16, 25-14, 25-11
Red Land def. Wyomissing, 25-20, 26-24, 25-14
York Suburban def. Wyomissing, 25-8, 25-13, 25-13
Manheim Central def. Red Land, 25-23, 25-23, 15-25
York Suburban def. Red Land, 25-18, 23-25, 29-27
Manheim Central def. Wyomissing, 25-17, 25-23, 26-28
Standings: York Suburban 3-0 (8-1), Manheim Central 2-1 (4-5), Red Land 1-2 (5-4), Wyomissing 0-3 (1-8)
at Central York H.S.
Dover vs. Manheim Central, 6 p.m.
York Suburban vs. Northeastern, 6 p.m.
Semifinal losers, 7:30 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 7:30 p.m.