Chris Lee went charging after a ball that was headed out of play in the third game of Northeastern’s championship game on Saturday. He was charging so hard that he didn’t notice the official in his way until he had barreled over him like an NFL linebacker.
Both Lee and the official were unscathed, but perhaps that was the embodiment of the grit Bobcats' coach Matt Wilson preaches to his players — a philosophy that team’s most unheralded players have bought into.
You could look at Brandon Arentz’s six kills and two digs on Saturday or Drew Landis’ contributions that don’t show up in the box score, and make similar connections.
The three are part of Northeastern’s class of 2016 – which will likely go down as the best in York County volleyball history — and often the most overlooked players on the court night in and night out. But the trio has been instrumental in the Bobcats’ success this year, which was capped off with a fourth consecutive state title on Saturday.
Matt Wilson, Reese Devilbiss and Brandon Arentz talk about the emotions of sealing a fourth title. Brandon Stoneburg
“Brandon and Chris are probably two of the best defensive players in the state,” said Reese Devilbiss. “They just pick up balls that are ridiculous. I look at them and I’m like, ‘wow did you really just pick that up?’ So they just really keep balls alive… They’ve done great things for our team.”
Keeping the ball alive was exactly what Lee was trying to do when he went hard into the official in the third game. He had pulled off a similar move moments before somehow keeping the ball alive to set up Devilbiss for a big kill.
Arentz was on the receiving end of several tough serves that he played perfectly and Landis was all over the court to help his team out. Wilson has been quick to note the role Landis played just getting the Bobcats to the state title game, especially during their win over York Suburban in the semifinals.
“There is no doubt that there was matches – York Suburban game one – where it was quite honestly Drew Landis that held us together at times,” said Wilson. “And then quite honestly it was Drew Landis that extended that match and gave us the push to do what we do.
“Without that we may not be sitting here.”
And there was plenty of praise for Arentz as well.
“He is as equal as anybody at what he does. And you need that to be a true champion,” Wilson said.
They also represent the kind of character players that Wilson wants his program to breed. That goes for all six graduating seniors – Devilbiss, Matt Schaeffer, Jeff Reynolds, Arentz, Lee, and Landis.
The close knit group has remained humble through all of their success and found ways to excel off the court as well. Lee was even valedictorian at Northeastern’s graduation, which took place last week.
“These guys push me every day,” Lee said. “Maybe positively or negatively they push me to keep working hard in school and in volleyball no matter what. That’s really what got me to this point today.”
Saturday was the end of one chapter of Northeastern as well as the start of a new one. Next season a new group of players will take over as the core of the team and will have some big shoes to fill.
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 they certainly had plenty of guys to learn from this year.
“They’ve seen the best in front of them on a nightly basis,” Wilson said. “It is now their turn to grab the baton create whatever best is for us.”
2016 Northeastern Bobcats
A roster look at the PIAA state champions:
Drew Landis, senior libero
Chris Lee, senior libero
James Toomey, junior opposite hitter
Wyatt Hughes, sophomore outside hitter
Taemer Willis, sophomore opposite hitter
Matt Schaeffer, senior setter
Jeff Reynolds, senior middle hitter
Jacob Cheuvront, sophomore setter
Resse Devilbiss, senior outside hitter
Nate Eyster, sophomore middle hitter
Brandon Arentz, senior outside hitter
Braxton Sowers, junior outside hitter
Dakoda Hoffman, junior middle hitter