Northeastern reclaims YAIAA volleyball championship with sweep of Central York
A year ago the Northeastern boys' volleyball team walked off the floor at Dallastown with shoulders slumped after falling to Central York in the YAIAA tournament championship game.
That was the last time the Bobcats were on the losing end of a best-of-five match. The program's current streak continued following Tuesday night's rematch for the YAIAA title.
Northeastern, which has won the last two District 3 and PIAA Class AA championships, left Dallastown with smiles all around after earning its second league tournament crown in three years after sweeping the Panthers 25-21, 25-16, 25-23.
"Last year our meddle was tested, our pride was tested leaving this gym," Bobcats coach Matt Wilson said. "We were able to turn it around in a few short days and start a run that has continued to this day. What a difference a year makes, but a lot of lessons were learned in those two matches (against Central)."
Senior Matt Thornton and junior Jeff Reynolds came up huge for Northeastern, in support of stars Reese Devilbiss and Phillip White. Reynolds had eight kills in Tuesday's match to go along with three blocks, while Thornton added four kills and had a hand in five blocks.
In fact, the Panthers held a 21-20 lead in the final set when Thornton combined with White for a huge block that tied the game. Although Central got a kill from Hayden Wagner and an ace from Landon Shorts while grabbing the lead back, 23-22, Reynolds and White teamed for a block, Brandon Arentz followed with one of his six kills, and the match ended when a Panthers' hit went long.
"(Winning the league title) means a lot. It's a big deal for the whole team, not just the seniors. It's a big event for us," Thornton said.
"It was a lot of fun. That's the only word that comes to mind," added Reynolds. "I think the chemistry from the past two years has definitely all come together. Our seniors are doing very well and even the guys you don't see on the court are helping us a lot in practice."
Wilson noticed how well his two middles played.
"Matt Thornton and Jeff Reynolds, those two were really difference makers tonight," the coach said. "That, to me, is a shining example of how far we have come this year.
"We are getting a much more balanced situation taking place right now, which is great. The stars were pretty good, but the cast really rose up tonight and delivered for us in a big way."
Central led the first game 12-9, but Northeastern rallied with an 8-3 run and took a 18-15 lead. The Panthers committed nine service errors in the opening set, which stymied any comeback efforts.
The middle game was fairly one-sided as the Bobcats opened leads of 8-3 and 16-11, and Thornton helped close the set with three of the final five points.
"Game 2 kind of got away from us and got ugly. That concerns me a little bit," said Central coach Brad Livingston. "We came here expecting to win the match. It didn't work out that way. Congrats to them, we've got to go back to the drawing board because we've got a big (District 3 Class AAA) match on Monday. We've got to get over it in a hurry."
While dominating early, the third set could have gone either way.
"It's a classic example of why this is such a great rivalry for decades," Wilson said. "Their ability to just come right back. Most programs would walk away in that scenario and we knew they weren't going to. I thought we handled it pretty well. We made a couple of big plays, made some crucial blocks from our middle."
Northeastern, currently ranked No. 1 is Class AA in the state, opened Tuesday with a 25-12, 25-13, 25-16 sweep of Susquehannock in one YAIAA semifinal, with the Panthers took care of Dallastown in similar fashion, 25-17, 25-16, 25-17.