Chris Lee leaped into Reese Devilbiss’ arms when Northeastern scored the championship point on Saturday afternoon to sweep Ambridge (25-22, 25-17, 25-15), and capture their fourth-straight state title at Rec Hall on the campus of Penn State University.
The Bobcats became the first boys' volleyball team in the state to win four-straight state championships since Hempfield did so from 2001 through 2004. They also became the first team to accomplish the feat since the sport dived into two classifications and just the 17th team overall to win four straight in any sport in the Commonwealth.
“It’s awesome. We’re all very relieved here,” Reese Devilbiss said with his first place medal hanging around his neck. “We’re just feeling great that we could accomplish this task that we wanted since freshman year. It’s just an awesome feeling.”
Matt Wilson, Reese Devilbiss and Brandon Arentz talk about the emotions of sealing a fourth title. Brandon Stoneburg
The Bridgers proved to be one of Northeastern’s toughest tests during the Bobcats' bid for a fourth consecutive title. The Bobcats had made it through the first two rounds with relative ease before running into a tough York Suburban team in the semifinals, and then Ambridge on Saturday.
Northeastern had taken a commanding 19-9 lead in the first game, but saw Ambridge scrap back to pull within three. Jeff Reynolds got the Bobcats to game point, but Ambdridge put up the next two points to make the defending champs sweat.
Reynolds then got the big block along the net and closed out the opening game.
“We knew they’d hang in there and want to grind with us,” Northeastern coach Matt Wilson said. “We snapped out of it and started cleaning some things up. End result was a win, which is what we’re all about.”
After that, Northeastern had much more control in the second and third games. Ambridge did manage to stay competitive and kept pace with the Bobcats, but they never went on a big run.
Devilbiss ended the second game with an emphatic kill and Brandon Arentz recorded the championship point.
“That was probably one of the first times I ever called for the ball during the game,” Arentz said. “I was just looking to go high off the block and it worked. Got the point and the celebration was surreal.”
The significance of Saturday’s win was still settling in for the players and their coach as they stood on the side of the court.
“Quite honestly we never got together to do all this to try to create any history,” Wilson said.
However, while the historical significance hadn’t set in, some of the players knew that the personal significance would.
Saturday marked the final time the core of the Northeastern volleyball team will be on the court at the same time. Drew Landis, Chris Lee, Matt Schaeffer, Reynolds, Devilbiss and Arentz all graduated on May 31.
“We tried not to think about it on the bus ride here,” Devilbiss said. “I knew Brandon and Jeffery were getting mad at Matt because he kept saying, ‘this is our last everything.’ We tried not to think about that. I don’t think anybody is thinking about it right now.
Ride on top of the fire truck through Manchester and Mount Wolf with Northeastern volleyball players after arriving home from their fourth straight state title. Paul Kuehnel
“But once we’re definitely on the bus ride home I think it’s going to hit everyone.”
Wilson said he was ‘just taking it all in’ after the game, but he recalled when he first saw some of those seniors play together in eighth grade.
“I looked across and I thought to myself that’s a group that gets it already,” Wilson said. “To see them go out on top the way they’ve done it and do it with first class style. I can’t really ask for anything more.”