Central York turns tables on Penn Manor; defends District 3 Class AAA title
Jason Gardner has been through many experiences during his four years as a Central York volleyball player.
Wednesday, he added his first five-game match to that list, a victory against Hempfield in the District 3 Class AAA semifinal match.
So in Friday's championship match against Penn Manor, the senior outside went one better.
His Panther squad, the sixth-ranked Class AAA team in the state, dropped the first two games and then fought off five match points in the third game before the defending district champions roared back to earn another title with a 23-25, 13-25, 35-33, 25-13, 15-9 thriller.
"Nothing like that, especially in the district finals," he said of the facing five points to end the match. "Just knowing that was the game we had to win or go home put a lot more pressure on us.
"It was probably one of the most fun games I've played in my four years."
Panther coach Brad Livingston certainly would not have described it as "fun."
"I only have so many beats in this heart, and they are using them up in a hurry," said the veteran coach.
After controlling the first two games, the Comets lost a little of their edge and fell behind in Game 3, trailing by eight points midway through the game.
But the Lancaster-Lebanon team, ranked 10th in the state, came back and took a 20-17 lead behind Noah Leighliter's six-point service run that included two aces.
From that point on, it was back and forth with Central responding every time the Comets had the championship point on their serve.
One of the match points was saved as Panther senior Landon Shorts ran down a ball and passed it over his head, just barely keeping it inside the antenna.
Finally, Central clinched the win with a double block by Shorts and Hayden Wagner on its fifth game point.
Penn Manor coach Chris Telesco knew that a nip-and-tuck affair like that game can come back to haunt you.
"We fought hard to get back into the game," Telesco said. "Back and forth (play) takes a lot of emotion. When Central won it, they gained a whole lot of momentum and confidence."
Livingston was wondering if his team would be able to make a match of it after the Comet serving took the YAIAA team out of their game.
"We knew this was going to come down to whether we could get a handle on their serve game. They were just running us out of town," he said.
That role was reversed once Central took the marathon middle game.
Gardner and Jeremiah Dadeboe had seven and six kills, respectively, in the last two games. Penn Manor never saw a lead in either game.
Central (14-1) starts its PIAA tournament next Wednesday against the third-place team from District 1, while Penn Manor (15-3) gets the runner-up out of District 12.
Central York def. Penn Manor,
23-25, 13-25, 35-33, 25-13, 15-9
Central York stats — Landon Shorts (5 kills, 4 blocks, 6 aces, 6 digs, 44 assists), Jeremiah Dadeboe (16 kills, 5 blocks), Jason Gardner (16 kills, 7 blocks, 3 aces, 8 digs), Hayden Wagner (7 kills, 3 blocks), Braden Neal (5 kills, 4 blocks, 2 digs), Nate Mehl (1 kills, 2 blocks), Cole Johnson (6 kills, 2 blocks), Trevor Holderegger (13 digs, 8 assists), Zac Kakos (12 digs).
Penn Manor stats — Griffin Sangrey (2 aces, 10 kills, 11 digs), Sam Greenslade (13 kills, 1 block, 4 aces), Noah Leighliter (3 aces, 4 kills, 6 blocks), Andrew Mintzer (6 digs), Dawson Funk (2 kills, 35 assists), Justin Torres (3 kills, 4 blocks).