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In the moments after the Northeastern boys' volleyball team secured its YAIAA championship Thursday night, there was a sense about the Bobcats players and coaches that this victory meant something extra. It was more than just the program's third-straight league tournament title. It was more than simply redemption for regular-season losses to Spring Grove and Central York. Even as Northeastern rolled to another impressive record this season -- it has been ranked the No. 1 Class AA team in the state all season by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association -- there was an ingredient missing from this year's Bobcats team. "These past two weeks, something inside us kind of burned out," Bobcats senior Ian Tyger said. "It started to flicker when we lost to Spring Grove and Central York at the end of the season." Thursday night, Northeastern might have rekindled that fire. It was easy to assume at the beginning of the year the Bobcats would cruise through the regular season. They lost two starters from last season, and even though one of those was go-to hitter Cory Bair, it was assumed Northeastern -- with all-state-caliber players like Tyger, Nic Shoemaker, Alex Reichard, Reid Lowery and Alec Kessler returning -- could make up for his loss. Which is why it was interesting to hear Northeastern coach Matt Wilson express a bit of trepidation at the beginning of the season. He wondered how his team would replace the energy and intangibles supplied by last year's seniors. "The group we lost last year was an emotional group," Wilson reiterated Thursday. "The seniors, we had a couple key players, and we were struggling finding that will and that desire. "Tonight, it was on display. In a big match, you need it. It's not just X's and O's all the time." Wilson was extremely candid Thursday. He admitted he was worried what a loss in the semifinals or finals might mean for his team. "Honestly, there weren't a lot of positives that could come out of tonight, other than winning," he said. "And that scared me. I'll be honest. I felt worried about that for us. "There was a moment before this match that something happened on this floor," he continued. "Everyone on the team got in that huddle. Not just the starters. Everyone. Backups, everybody. I went 'The whole program is on that floor right now.' "I thought 'You know what, we're getting that taste back from a year ago. Because we haven't had it in a while.'" Now, well find out where Northeastern goes from here. They'll be the runaway favorites to win the District 3 Class AA tournament. The biggest challenge there could come from a pair of local teams: Dover or York Suburban. Both have flirted with the PVCA's Top 10 rankings -- and both were beaten handily by Northeastern in the regular season. From there it would be onto states, and a chance at the program's second PIAA title in as many years. Nothing is guaranteed, of course. The state tournament can be fickle. One bad day, one bad set of games, and dreams can be dashed. But if the Bobcats go on to repeat as PIAA champions, they may look to Thursday as the moment when their run started.

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