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Lions advance in District 3 tourney, clinch spot in state playoffs

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In a year of firsts for Red Lion volleyball, the Lions continued to add to the achievement list.

The Lions clinched their first trip to the state tournament with a sweep of Central York in Monday’s District 3 quarterfinals matchup held at Dallastown High School. The victory also set up a meeting Wednesday in the semifinals with Hempfield.

“All those kids had this set as their sights that they wanted to reach this goal,” Red Lion coach Rick Torbert. “We just kept talking about getting through the season. County Championships. Districts… They made it happen tonight. They came out here with a lot of energy from pretty much the first point of the match.”

The Lions and Panthers found themselves in a bit of a dog fight in the opening game, with neither side being able to go ahead by more than two points. It was Red Lion that broke a 23-23 tie and took the game.

Ahead 4-2 Red Lion caught a break early in the second game. After an error by an official, Dillon Hildebrand was able to replay a serve that allowed the Lions to take a three-point advantage. If the ball had been called out it would have allowed the Panthers to pull back within one.

“It was a blessing I’ll tell you what,” Hildebrand said. “I guess I picked the right one to serve it out on.”

The Lions would rattle off seven-straight points after that and took the second game decisively, 25-13.

However, the Panthers did not go down without a fight in the third game. After falling behind early, Central York rallied to chip away at a 20-14 Lions’ lead. They evened the score at 23, but a serve into the net by the Panthers allowed Red Lion to pick up the next two points to win the game.

“I never dreamed of being here,” Hildebrand said with a smile.

The Lions had entered Monday’s game ranked 10th in Class AAA by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association. The Panthers were ranked third.

The Panthers' season came to a close with the loss, along with a bid to win the program’s third consecutive district championship. Central York finished the 2016 campaign with an 11-5 record.

“I think it would have been really interesting if we had pulled out that third game, but we got in our own way,” Central coach Todd Goodling said. “At 23-all we make a service error… I really think that we’re a good enough team that had we gotten out of our own way on the last couple of points we could have had a real shot at coming back.”

With their next game on Wednesday, Red Lion's celebration will be short lived.

“We’re going to celebrate with a hard practice tomorrow night,” Torbert said with a smirk.

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