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Were it not for the black-and-orange shirts and the image of longtime coach Matt Wilson stalking the sidelines, the casual fan might not have recognized the newest incarnation of the Northeastern boys' volleyball team.

A year after graduating one of the most successful classes in the program's history, the Bobcats had a new look for Thursday's YAIAA opener with Dover. Six Northeastern players were making their first start. Included in the team's starting lineup were three sophomores, a freshman and just one senior.

The names that were mainstays over the last three years -- Nic Shoemaker, Ian Tyger, Alex Reichard, Reid Lowery and others -- have all moved on.

But this new, fresh-faced group can certainly play. The Bobcats showed that Thursday, during a 25-16, 16-25, 25-15, 22-25, 15-6 win inside the Eagles gym.

A big part of that new nucleus is a pair of brothers: Steven and Luke Braswell.

They both occupy different roles. Steven is the team's go-to hitter -- he hammered 23 kills on Thursday. He's also one of the few Bobcats with any varsity experience. He played last year in what Wilson called a "very minor" role.

"He's a good secret," Wilson joked after Thursday's game.

Perhaps not for much longer.

Then there's Luke, the sophomore setter who also looked comfortable in his first varsity match. He dished 49 assists.

Luke Braswell replaces Nic Shoemaker, who was a multiple all-state pick and one of the area's top players.

"This is big for a sophomore setter," Wilson said. "You’re playing one of the bigger teams in the state, first time out. You got all these coaches over here barking at you, and that’s not easy either.

"He’s got huge shoes (to fill). Fortunately he’s got huge shoes to begin with."

Throw in a handful of other promising talents -- including sophomore Matt Hollinger and freshman Devin Soop, among others -- and future for the Bobcats looks bright.

Of course, brother combos are nothing new at Northeastern. There was Drew and Ian Tyger, along with Eric and Nic Shoemaker.

Who knows if the Braswells will one day join that crowd. But for now they look like an important part of Northeastern's revamped lineup.

"Hopefully maybe when we graduate we’ll own the legendary brother combination," Steven Braswell said. "But for now it’s just great to play with him. He’s a great player."

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