STATE COLLEGE -- There was a different feel about the Dover team that arrived at Penn State University on Friday for quarterfinal pool play of the PIAA Class AA boys' volleyball championships.
The Eagles' coach, Chris Kennedy, noticed it when his team first hit the floor for warmups shortly before 9 a.m.
The rest of tournament's entrants were alerted to it about an hour-and-a-half later, after Dover had notched a take-notice victory against one of the state's traditional powers.
"It definitely felt good," senior captain Ean Julius said, "to be able to go out there and show that we are a team that can contend for a state title."
Dover certainly did that Friday. It won all three of its pool-play matches at Penn State's Multi-Sport Indoor Facility to earn the top qualifying spot from Pool B and a place in Saturday's semifinals. The Eagles will be joined there by another YAIAA team -- York Suburban, which survived an early scare to take all three of its matches and secure Pool A's top seed.
The Class AA semifinals are set for 9 a.m. Saturday. Dover will play District 11 champion Bethlehem Catholic, while York Suburban will face District 7 winner Ambridge. The Class AA finals will follow at 1 p.m.
A third York-Adams area team, Northeastern, went 0-3 in its pool-play matches Friday and failed to advance.
If York Suburban's showing was akin to holding serve -- the Trojans have been the No. 1-ranked Class AA team in the state much of the season -- Dover's was the sort of big-stage breakthrough its players have been hoping to attain. The Eagles have operated in Suburban's shadow for much of this season. They were swept by the Trojans in the District 3 Class AA title game last week.
"We feel overlooked," Julius said. "But that's just kind of more motivation for us."
Dover's seven seniors also wanted to blot out the memories of their elimination in last year's state quarterfinals, when they arrived wide-eyed and simply content to be there.
Early on, it was apparent that would not be the case this time.
The Eagles started their day by squeaking out a 2-1 win against Ambridge, the third-ranked Class AA team in the state by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association (Dover is ranked No. 5). The teams split their first two games, before Dover blunted a late Ambridge rally in Game 3. Brendan Warren's kill secured a 26-24, 15-25, 25-22 win.
"It was a momentum boost from them for pretty much the whole day," Kennedy said.
"We knew we could take just about any team," added senior captain Ryan Lamparter, who hammered a team-high 41 combined kills.
Dover parlayed that momentum into a sweep of Holy Redeemer (25-12, 25-17, 25-19). A couple hours later, the Eagles sealed their spot in the semifinals with a 2-1 victory (25-13, 25-20, 19-25) against Cochranton.
The Eagles offense was fluid, facilitated by setter Brandon Krone (87 combined assists). Four Dover players had at least 15 kills on the afternoon.
Lamparter said he felt it was Dover's best team performance of the season.
"We've peaked at the right moment," Kennedy added. "We're in a great spot right now."
Meanwhile, York Suburban had to withstand a gut-check moment early in its day.
The Trojans dropped their opening game against Northeastern, 25-23, and trailed 17-20 in the teams' second set. A loss would have left little margin for error.
Then, just as quickly, Suburban jolted to life. The Trojans won six of the next seven points en route to a 25-22 win, then steamrolled Northeastern in the next game, 25-17.
"We were just out of our element," York Suburban coach Jamie Evans said. "I don't know if it was sleep, if it was just the venue. I'm going to attribute it to pressure. But I saw the turning point in the second game. You could just feel it. They were back in their zone."
The Trojans followed that up with a sweep of District 7 foe Derry, then won a decisive third game against Bethlehem Catholic to earn a 2-1 match victory (25-20, 22-25, 25-19) and the pool's top seed.
Setter Kody Deiter racked up 100 combined assists, with Fred Gard (30 kills) and Jaryd Eshler (27 kills) pacing Suburban's hitters. Evans also singled out the play of middle blocker Brad Hartshorne (19 kills, 7 blocks).
York Suburban and Ambridge met earlier this year at Central York's Koller Classic, where the Trojans earned a one-game victory. Evans said his message to his team heading into Saturday's semifinals would be simple.
"Enjoy it," he said. "We talked about that (Friday). Don't forget why you play this sport. Faith in ourselves, focus and fun. That was kind of our motto today."
at Penn State University
Quarterfinal Pool Play
(3-1) Central Dauphin, (11-2) Parkland, (1-2) Souderton, (7-2) Norwin
at Court #1
Central Dauphin def. Parkland, 21-25, 25-17, 25-22
Norwin def. Parkland, 25-14, 25-21, 18-25
Central Dauphin def. Norwin, 26-24, 25-21, 25-21
at Court #2
Norwin def. Souderton, 25-20, 25-17, 25-16
Central Dauphin def. Souderton, 25-20, 25-22, 22-25
Souderton def. Parkland, 22-25, 25-21, 25-20
Standings: Central Dauphin 3-0 (7-2), Norwin 2-1 (5-4), Souderton 1-2 (3-6), Parkland 0-3 (3-6)
(1-1) Pennridge, (3-2) Chambersburg, (11-1) Emmaus, (3-4) Lower Dauphin
at Court #3
Chambersburg def. Pennridge, 25-14, 25-18, 25-23
Chambersburg def. Lower Dauphin, 25-20, 25-22, 24-26
Pennridge def. Lower Dauphin, 25-18, 26-24, 25-19
at Court #4
Emmaus def. Lower Dauphin, 25-19, 29-27, 23-25
Pennridge def. Emmaus, 23-25, 25-19, 25-18
Chambersburg def. Emmaus, 25-23, 26-24, 23-25
Standings: Chambersburg 3-0 (7-2), Pennridge 2-1 (5-4), Emmaus 1-2 (4-5), Lower Dauphin 0-3 (2-7)
(3-1) York Suburban, (3-3) Northeastern, (7-2) Derry, (11-1) Bethlehem Catholic
at Court #1
York Suburban def. Northeastern, 23-25, 25-22, 25-17
Bethlehem Catholic def. Northeastern, 25-18, 14-25, 25-23
York Suburban def. Bethlehem Catholic, 25-20, 22-25, 25-19
at Court #2
Bethlehem Catholic def. Derry, 25-22, 18-25, 30-28
York Suburban def. Derry, 25-17, 25-15, 25-13
Derry def. Northeastern, 25-21, 19-25, 25-23
Standings: York Suburban 3-0 (7-2), Bethlehem Catholic 2-1 (5-4), Derry 1-2 (3-6), Northeastern 0-3 (3-6)
(7-1) Ambridge, (3-2) Dover, (10-1) Cochranton, (2-1) Holy Redeemer
at Court #3
Dover def. Ambridge, 26-24, 15-25, 25-22
Dover def. Holy Redeemer, 25-17, 25-19, 25-12
Ambridge def. Holy Redeemer, 25-18, 25-13, 25-20
at Court #4
Cochranton def. Holy Redeemer, 24-26, 25-20, 25-17
Ambridge def. Cochranton, 22-25, 25-14, 25-20
Dover def. Cochranton, 25-13, 25-20, 19-25
--- Standings: Dover 3-0 (7-2), Ambridge 2-1 (6-3), Cochranton 1-2 (4-5), Holy Redeemer 0-3 (1-8)
Dover combined stats -- Ryan Lamparter (41 kills, 6 aces), Brendan Warren (17 kills, 3 aces), Tyler Lehman (26 kills, 3 aces), Ean Julius (15 kills), Derek Stern (4 kills), Brandon Krone (87 assists), Tyler Wiley (50 digs, 3 kills).
York Suburban combined stats -- Fred Gard (30 kills, 35 digs, 1 ace), Jaryd Eshler (27 kills, 36 digs, 5 aces), Jacob Kauffman (22 kills, 9 blocks), Ted Hinnenkamp (17 kills, 14 digs), Brad Hartshorne (19 kills, 7 blocks), Kody Deiter (100 assists, 26 digs), Justin Corsa (23 digs, 2 aces).
Northeastern combined stats -- Luke Braswell (83 assists, 13 digs, 4 blocks, 3 kills), Stephen Braswell (1 ace, 49 kills, 2 blocks, 12 digs), Matt Hollinger (6 aces, 20 kills, 3 blocks, 31 digs), Mailk Jefferson (4 kills, 4 blocks, 6 digs), Casey Winard (2 kills, 1 block), Chris Curry (3 kills, 2 blocks, 3 digs), Cavan Irvine (1 ace), Devin Soop (2 assists, 36 digs), Philip White (2 aces, 5 kills, 4 blocks, 23 digs).
Central Dauphin vs. Pennridge at Court #1, 11 a.m.
Chambersburg vs. Norwin at Court #3, 11 a.m.
Semifinal winners, 3 p.m.
York Suburban vs. Ambridge at Court #2, 9 a.m.
Dover vs. Bethlehem Catholic at Court #3, 9 a.m.
Semifinal winners, 1 p.m.