In the aftermath of the Northeastern boys' volleyball team's 3-1 victory over Central York Thursday night, one thing seemed to be on everybody's mind.
The way fans crammed into Northeastern's gym Thursday, you would have thought this was a high-profile basketball game. Of maybe a dual-wrestling meet between rivals.
Then again, there was plenty on the line Thursday. Both teams came in rated near the top of the state. Both had perfect league records. And, of course, the two schools are neighborhood rivals.
Northeastern athletic director Bryan Stephens estimated the school sold about 700 tickets for Thursday's regular-season finale. Both schools had big student sections on hand (seated, by pure chance, right next to each other). The students exchanged chants. Roars followed every point. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more electric atmosphere for high school volleyball anywhere in the state.
And the players seemed to feed off the energy.
"We've never seen anything like that for our team," Northeastern junior Ian Tyger said. "We're an emotional team. That's what we thrive on. That was our fuel this game. That's what pushed us."
"I told the guys, Let the crowd create the energy, you just concentrate on fundamentals and the scouting report," Bobcats coach Matt Wilson said. "If you get too excited, you can lose focus."
The match itself was well-played. (Wilson later said it was his team's best performance of the season.) The Bobcats moved the ball well on offense, keyed by setter Nic Shoemaker (46 assists). Tyger and Cory Bair had 15 kills a piece. But what set Northeastern apart on this night was it's defense, something that has been a bugbear at times for the Bobcats. Five Northeastern players had at least four blocks, led by Shoemaker's nine.
Central had its moments, too. Kyle Wisner (17 kills) was outstanding. But the Panthers perhaps weren't quite as sharp in their defense and passing.
"At times there was great volleyball on both sides of the court," Panthers coach Brad Livingston said. "But there was more on their side of the court than there was on ours."
Best of all? There's a chance these two sides could do it all over again next week. The YAIAA tournament starts on Tuesday, and will be played at Dallastown.
If only Northeastern could round up some of those fans and bring them along.
Marathon at the Vault
Couldn't believe when I read this: West York's Kaden Hepler struck out 19 batters -- yes, Nineteen -- Thursday in eight innings during the Bulldogs' YAIAA tournament semifinal against South Western at Sovereign Bank Stadium.
And Hepler's team still lost.
The Mustangs' 3-2 victory in 10 innings sends them into the league final Saturday against Bermudian Springs (11 a.m., Sovereign Bank Stadium).
But the story from this game was undoubtedly Hepler's gem. The sophomore right-hander, who threw a no-hitter earlier this year, tossed 150 pitches, walked nine and allowed two hits.
He also plays for West York's basketball team, and is in line to be the football team's starting quarterback next fall.
The loss no doubt hurt. But Hepler's pitching performance was one nobody involved with that game will ever forget.