When pushed, most athletes will typically rise to the challenge.

Wednesday, Central York's boys' volleyball team responded to a challenge from Hempfield with a usual result: a win.

The Panthers were pushed to the brink in their 22-25, 25-22, 25-17, 23-25, 15-12 victory against the Black Knights in a District 3 Class AAA semifinal at Dallastown. Coming into the game, only Northeastern had won a match against Central York.

The Panthers move on to face Penn Manor in the championship game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Dallastown.

Related: Penn Manor headed to district finals after downing Central Dauphin

"It was an experience to remember," senior captain Landon Shorts said. "It gave me chills. This is the first time I've ever played a five-game set in my varsity career."

This year is a different feeling for Shorts, who is now one of Central's biggest leaders.

"I wasn't the biggest leader last year," he said. "This year, my leadership needs to be on point, because I'm a senior. I know what it takes for a great team to be successful."

At one of the match's most critical points, Shorts let his play do the talking.

With the match tied at one game apiece, Hempfield secured a 13-9 lead in the third game.

The Black Nights stretched the lead thanks to two spikes from Ben Naumann.

Then, they went up by four points for the second time in the match; they won a point after one of their digs hit a pole and stayed in play.

Central began clawing back, and before long, the game was tied at 16.

Shorts stepped to the service line, and his powerful right arm swung bookend aces on a four-point service run.

When the ball clipped the back line for his second ace and a 20-16 lead, Shorts and his teammates celebrated.

"When we went into the huddle after winning big points, it was unbelievable adrenaline," Shorts said. "To know your advancement is on the line is incredible."

Central's advancement was in question many times during the night.

Hempfield's hitters were by far the more accurate in the first game as they raced out to an 18-11 lead.

Central battled back to make the game respectable, but did not carry over that momentum.

A thunderous spike by Hempfield's Logan Smiley put the Black Knights up 4-1 early in the second.

Central started to fight back, starting with a spike by Jeremiah Dadeboe shortly after Central players spilled to the floor to keep alive a ball off the net.

Shorts finally tied things at 10 with a spike after a sliding dig by Braden Neal that saw the ball climb his arms and hit him in the chin.

The teams struggled for separation as the game was tied 11 times.

Finally, a pair of Hempfield errors gave Central daylight, and spikes by Dadeboe and Shorts closed the game.

Hempfield fought hard to win the fourth after racing to a 16-11 lead.

Central tied it at 18, and it remained tied until 21.

Neal's serve at 23-24 was inches long, forcing a deciding set.

Smiley put Hempfield up 7-4 in the race to 15 with a spike.

Central head coach Brad Livingston called timeout, and then watched his team run off three straight points.

Next, it was Hempfield coach Mike Vogel's turn to call timeout.

"We had a three-point lead, and then it just evaporated in three points, its like they just forgot what they were supposed to do," Vogel said.

The Knights responded with four of the next six points to take an 11-10 lead.

Central went up 12-11, and then a remarkable point took place.

Hempfield's Cole Rineer took two power swings at the tying point, but both were spoiled, one by Neal's sprawling effort. Rineer then forcefully blocked a shot, but Central recovered and Hayden Wagner smashed a kill off the diving libero.

It proved to be the last gasp for Hempfield.

"To see the kids battle back from down 4-7 is impressive," Livingston said. "We have talked about trying to be resilient and tough, grind things out all year. Hempfield brought out something in us we hadn't had to go to before."

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