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Northeastern hosts the Bobcat Invitational Saturday, April 1. Several of the state's best programs will be among the 40 teams expected to compete for the annual tournament title. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com

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There's no avoiding the stark reality of the Bobcat Invitational. It's a "shock to the system."

Just a week after the winter sports season concluded, volleyball players don't have the luxury of easing into the spring season, at least many in the York-Adams area.

One of the premier annual events for boys' volleyball in the state returns Saturday, when 40 teams — including some of the top-ranked teams in the state — will descend on Manchester for the Bobcat Invitational. The tournament is played across eight courts in four gymnasiums, with teams competing in the championship, silver and bronze brackets depending on their play early in the day.

"We go at length to try to bring a diversified field from all corners of the state," Northeastern coach Matt Wilson said.

The field continues to be a mishmash of the state's best in the sport, with teams traveling from the Allentown, Erie and Pittsburgh regions to compete.

Northeastern, which has won six boys' volleyball state titles — including four straight in Class 2A — routinely tests itself early in the season. And that includes matches against the state's best big-school, Class 3A, teams.

"I prefer a very difficult schedule to start the season off," Wilson said. "We work pretty hard to identify who we want in those early weeks. ... We travel to play on their home court."

Then they invite the state's best to play in Manchester.

"It's sort of a shock to the system to get us ready," Wilson said.

Six of the top-10 ranked teams in the state's big-school classification have committed to the tournament, with Central York, Hempfield, Central Dauphin, Emmaus, Seneca Valley and Dallastown expected to play.

In the small-school classification, five of the state's top 10 will be on display in Northeastern, Saegertown, Fort Lebouf, Bishop Guilfoyle and Ambridge — the program Northeastern defeated in the state championship a year ago.

"It's a long day, it's a crazy day but you can't match it anywhere," York Suburban co-head coach Jamie Evans said. "It's a great experience overall."

Bobcat Invitational

What: 40-team boys' volleyball tournament
Where: Manchester
When: Starts 8:30 a.m. Saturday
Where: Northeastern High School main gym, high school annex gym, Northeastern Middle School gym and Spring Forge Intermediate School gym
YAIAA teams: Central York, Dallastown, Dover, Northeastern, Red Lion, Spring Grove, Susquehannock, York Suburban
Opening pool play: 30-point games
Second- and third-round play-in brackets: 15-point games, best-of-three matches
Round-of-16 and quarterfinal matches: 15-point games, best-of-three
Semifinals, championship: 21-point games, best-of-three

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