While the majority of the attention in YAIAA volleyball this season has been paid to the orange-clad trio of Northeastern, Central York and York Suburban, there's a fourth team that is quietly flying under the radar despite being undefeated through four games: Red Lion.
And the Lions are perfectly content with being overlooked.
"I think it puts us in a better position actually," senior Dillon Hildebrand said. "No one expects anything from us. Everyone comes in ranked and thinks they're going to walk all over us. Then we bring it to them."
After Tuesday's 3-1 statement win over undefeated York Suburban, which Hildebrand called a "must-win," confidence is sky-high at Red Lion. The win was a glimpse of how solid the Lions can be and how their balance can present nightmares for opposing coaches. Four players finished with at least five digs, three players had at least six blocks and the Lions recorded 46 assists on 64 kills. Levi Davis and John Longnecker are top-five in the league in aces and assists, respectively, and the hitting duo of Hildebrand and sophomore sensation Cole Brillhart is among the best in the league. No wonder the Lions believe they can be a postseason contender.
"I think this win would define how our season would go," Hildebrand said. "We had to get this one if we wanted the rest of the season to go the way we want it to. And we came out, we proved that we wanted it and we took it home...I think our ceiling is limitless. If we play like we did (against York Suburban) and bring the intensity, then the sky is the limit for us."
The Lions, led by a senior-heavy lineup and a first-year head coach in Rick Torbert, are now 4-0 and sit third in the first District 3 power rankings released this week. Perhaps the rest of the league and the media should've seen this success coming. After all, Red Lion only graduated one senior from last year's 9-7 team and returned the same core group as last season, including Hildebrand and Brillhart, who combined for 41 kills in Tuesday's victory.
"We knew we would be pretty good," Brillhart said. "We brought back almost everyone so we knew...Everyone trusts each other, they've (the seniors) been playing with each other for so long and we're all great friends. The chemistry is great."
Red Lion's 10-member senior class has made life easy on Torbert in his first season at the helm.
"It's huge for me," Torbert said. "We had open gyms starting in January. I got in a little late but I could see we had a ton of talent. And with them, I didn't have to worry about the detail stuff. We could just work on refining things and getting better."
What's the secret? A lack of drama, Hildebrand said. After every key kill on Tuesday, players on the bench erupted in cheers for their teammates. Some celebrations were more creative, including one where two players pretended to catch a third on a fishing pole, then posed with their 'trophy fish.'
"We're all a good group of friends," he said. "There's no drama, we get along well. We just come here to have fun, play and kick butt."