EXETER TOWNSHIP - It was a battle from the start, and it took five games, but York Suburban advanced to the PIAA Class AA boys' volleyball semifinals after Saturday afternoon's 3-2 victory against Holy Redeemer at Exeter Township High School.
The Trojans posted a 25-22, 25-15, 21-25, 19-25, 17-15 victory to set up another meeting with Northeastern. However, it nearly didn't happen after Suburban let a 2-0 advantage slip away and then fell into an early deficit in the fifth game.
The Trojans found themselves in a hole at the start of the deciding game. Down 6-3, Suburban went on a 3-0 run to even the score before taking the lead with a block along the net. But after nipping at the Trojans' heels all game, Holy Redeemer staved off match point and took a 15-14 lead.
The Trojans answered by picking up three straight points and extending their season another game.
“When we stuck to our game plan, we were earning the points,” Suburban coach Jamie Evans said. “We kind of sat back the beginning of the third game and the beginning of the fourth game. We went full rotations until we finally started playing. ... (The Trojans) mentally wanted it, so they just went after it.”
Despite taking a lead early on, neither of the first two games came easily for Suburban. The Trojans fell behind early in the first game and did not take their first lead of the afternoon until the middle of the game. They carried the momentum into the second game, trading points with the Royals early before taking control on the way to another victory.
But Holy Redeemer waged its comeback in the third game..
With the score knotted at 20, the Royals put up four consecutive points to go ahead 24-20. Suburban picked up one more point, but Holy Redeemer sealed the game three win to keep the match going.
The Royals opened up a 13-3 lead in the fourth game. Suburban rallied to close the gap to four points, but the early hole was too deep, and the Royals forced the decisive game.
“I think we outscored (Holy Redeemer) at the end of the third and the fourth game, and that’s what I was trying to use for their motivation,” Evans said. “That we’re fine and if we just play, we can outscore them.”
Much of Saturday’s match was spent battling along the net.
The Royals boast a roster with a size advantage over Suburban. They have six players that are taller than six feet, including John Carr (6 foot, 8 inches) and Rob Zbierski (6 foot, 6 inches). And that made it more challenging for the Trojans to get balls over the net cleanly.
“We had to hit around the block and just be controlled,” Sepehr Vakili said. “We couldn’t hit straight into it. I did that a couple times, but we came back and fixed it. And we won.”
Evans said he knew Holy Redeemer had size heading into Saturday’s match, and he stressed to his players not to feel overwhelmed by it. The Trojans were familiar with the Royals having played them during Bobcat Classic earlier this year.
“Not all of their hitters use that height to their advantage, so we knew that we could still get at least touches on the ball to help our defense,” Evans said. “We try not to be intimidated.”
Suburban's win sets up an all-York County semifinal matchup with Northeastern on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. The Bobcats rolled to a much easier 3-0 sweep of Nanticoke in Saturday's second game at Exeter Township.