STATE COLLEGE >> Only three points separated Philip White from the end of his high school boys' volleyball career.
He looked up to the scoreboard just before noon Saturday at Penn State's Rec Hall and wondered to himself.
"Am I going to be able to hit the last point? When I was serving, I wasn't sure," he said.
White stretched his 6-foot-4 frame to contest a play toward the right end of the net. His hands smacked the ball back to Saegertown's side of the floor. A collection of screams and joyous teammates collapsed on the senior. The final play of his high school career secured Northeastern's third straight PIAA Class AA championship.
"I'm glad he got it," junior Reese Devilbiss said. "My freshman year I ended up with the match-winning kill. I knew what that felt like, so imagine what a block felt like."
An exhale of celebration.
Northeastern's championship win — a 25-9, 25-22, 25-12 sweep — reflected its season. The Bobcats never lost a regular-season match and dominated Saegertown, the state's No. 2-ranked team by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association. The performance was similar to Northeastern's season opener, a northwest trip to Saegertown. The Panthers opened as the preseason No. 1 in Class AA, and the Bobcats left that day with a sweep as well.
Few teams ever provided them with much resistance.
Only Parkland, which followed to win Saturday's AAA state final, and Hempfield took games against Northeastern during in-season tournaments.
Saegertown came close to joining that group when it forced Matt Wilson to burn two timeouts late in Saturday's Game 2. The Bobcats' coach rarely had to do that this year, his players later acknowledged.
"What our team is good at is we don't panic," Devilbiss said. "We stayed calm. We knew what we have to do."
They didn't have to do anything. Saegertown came out of the timeout and served a ball into the net to seal Northeastern's second set of 25 points. Another 25 later — as players hounded White and embraced — assistant coach George Miller turned to Wilson.
"I guess we're really that good now," Miller told Wilson.
"I think he's spot on with it," Wilson said. "That team we beat today is far better than that score reflects."
Northeastern became the fifth school to win at least three straight Pennsylvania boys' volleyball titles and the first since Hempfield from 2001-04. The Bobcats' run began two years ago at Penn State's Multi-Sport Indoor Facility, which sits about 2 miles away on the university campus. White, Devilbiss and plenty of others who took the floor last year and Saturday at Rec Hall played in the first one.
Wilson described them as "thirsty for more" and "seeking greatness in a legacy of greatness."
They could return next year. The question was asked to Wilson, who hesitated, but recognized what made this team different.
The coach stood to the side of a podium, where 15 of his players gathered for a post-game interview. Some sat at a table with the rest standing behind them. A financial advisor by trade, Wilson put his hands together and assessed the group.
He resisted opportunities to claim this one stood above his other three championship teams.
"Each one has a special place," said the coach, whose school now has six state volleyball titles overall.
Wilson closed by offering, "This team's deep."
It seems to be getting better, too. Northeastern's last setback came in late April against fellow District 3 foe Hempfield during the championship game of the State College Invitational. It swept every opponent through district and state play, culminating with an opponent that took no shame in receiving a runner-up trophy.
"I think we had the toughest road," Saegertown coach Justin Johnson said. "I don't know if many people that follow the game would disagree with me on that."
Northeastern had the most dominant — and a few parallels to its 2014 run.
Like last year, this squad dealt with injury to its starting setter.
It also left State College wondering what would happen in a rematch with the bigger AAA state champion. Last year's winner, Central York, got by Northeastern without setter Luke Braswell at full strength. This year's setter, junior Matt Schaeffer, missed Northeastern's mid-April meeting with Parkland.
Schaeffer admitted Parkland isn't a rival like 2014 champion Central York, "but I think we'd like another chance at them."
His confidence after a 32-assist match came with a heavy arsenal.
Devilbiss, already a Division I college recruit to Ohio State, scored a finals-high 14 kills. He's now 3-of-3 in PIAA title hunts.
"They get better and better every year," Devilbiss said. "The first one's definitely a huge memory, but this third one is history. Not too many teams have done it before."
Can they go 4-of-4?
White will be gone, cherishing his medals after 11 kills and three blocks in the finale. The senior will play his college ball in Maryland at Stevenson University.
The rest will likely text their coach about sneaking into the gym this offseason.
"I expect they will push us," Wilson said. "That's (part) of the greatness to this team. It won't be long. I'll want my little break, and they won't allow it to happen."
Contact Matt Goul at 771-2045.
Northeastern def. Saegertown, 25-9, 25-22, 25-12 at Penn State's Rec Hall
Saegertown stats — Brendon Barclay (8 kills, 6 digs), Trevor Pavlik (15 assists, 4 digs, 1 kill), Alex Barclay (6 kills, 6 digs, 1 assist), Peter Mattocks (5 kills), Garrett Johnston (9 digs), Ryan Kirdahy (3 digs, 1 assist).
Northeastern stats — Reese Devilbiss (14 kills, 2 blocks, 2 aces, 2 digs, 1 assist), Matt Schaeffer (32 assists, 2 kills, 1 block, 1 dig), Philip White (11 kills, 3 blocks, 2 digs, 1 ace), Brandon Arentz (7 kills, 4 digs, 1 block, 1 assist), Jeff Reynolds (6 kills, 2 blocks, 1 dig), Matt Thornton (3 blocks), Chris Lee (2 digs, 2 assists), Drew Landis (2 digs).