Rivals on the YAIAA volleyball court, Northeastern's Luke Braswell and Central York's Royce Clemens will soon be teammates at Penn State.
They are still rivals for now, however, as the Bobcats and Panthers aim for high school boys' volleyball supremacy.
Braswell's Bobcats (11-0 YAIAA record in 2013) and Clemens' Panthers (10-1) met up for the league title last season. Their journey this year will include plenty of challenges throughout the league, so here is a breakdown of the YAIAA in boys' volleyball:
Northeastern has two gaping holes in the front of the net from its PIAA Class AA title team, but coach Matt Wilson still has plenty of talent after the graduation of Stephen Braswell and Malik Jefferson. Luke Braswell, last spring's YAIAA Player of the Year, will still be the setter. Sophomore Reese Devilbiss, who played throughout the lineup as an all-state freshman, will be an outside hitter. Junior Philip White, regarded by Wilson as the team's most-improved player, will play the opposite side. Senior libero Matt Hollinger and junior Devin Soop also return. Senior Casey Winand and sophomore Jeff Reynolds should maintain the middle blocker spot.
Central, though, was picked by an equal number of coaches in an informal poll to win the league this season.
The Panthers return senior all-state setter Dylan Hose to go with Clemens, an all-state outside hitter, as well as Stevenson-bound senior Alex Klunk, an All-District 3 middle attacker. Junior Jason Gardner also returns in the middle, while senior Brett Lomicky is the returning libero. Lomicky had 104 digs after winning the starting job last season. Hose averaged 10.5 assists per set, while Clemens had 315 kills and Klunk 257 kills in 2013.
York Suburban (7-4) is two years removed from a league title and state tournament run for coach Jamie Evans. The Trojans return senior outside hitter Jacob Kauffman, whose 183 career aces is a program record. He had 53 last year along with 396 kills. Senior setter Lars Dalemar returns after 682 assists, and senior middle blocker Ryan Bury had 285 kills and 55 blocks last year.
Kennard-Dale (7-4) advanced to the postseason for the first time in school history but returns just one player from that squad. Sophomore setter Josiah McConville will guide a squad that includes senior outside hitter Matt Moore and freshmen Luke Criswell and Jack Whitt, a libero.
The Rams finished just behind Dallastown (8-3) and ahead of Susquehannock (6-5), which returns two standout hitters in A.J. Schaeffer and Brian Sheddy. The Wildcats will rely on outside hitters Aaron Ward and Jared Barnett, plus setters Nate Swartz and Dylan Fry. Owen Terroso is the projected libero.
Red Lion (5-6) brings back at least four starters, including outside hitter Jared Warner, setter Hunter Klein and Dan Longnecker, who plays both of those positions.
Spring Grove (3-8) looks to improve with a slew of returning starters, including junior outside hitter Dalton Forbes, senior middle hitter Cayden Wisner, junior setter Austin Muff and sophomore outside hitter Garrett Leib.
New Oxford (1-10) was the most recent school not named Central or Northeastern to win a state title, and it plucked former Panthers assistant Jason Barshinger as its new coach. Barshinger spent last year with the women's team at Central Penn College.
The Colonials return junior outside hitters Ryan McMaster and Zack McMaster, plus junior setter Trey Noble. The varsity roster is comprised of all juniors and one sophomore.
West York (0-11) brings back four-year outside hitter Josh Rinehart to go with first-year senior Austin Groff, a former lacrosse player. First-year Bulldogs coach Kevin Wolf will welcome another standout from another sport: The basketball team's leading scorer, Kevin Rice, is projected to play right-side and middle hitter. Senior middle hitter Justin Warfel also returns.
Preseason top five
1. Central York
3. York Suburban
Save the dates
Saturday, March 29 >> Central York, Dallastown, Dover, Red Lion, Spring Grove, Susquehannock and York Suburban are among the locals who will visit Northeastern for the Bobcat Invitational.
Saturday, April 12 >> Dallastown, Northeastern and York Suburban are among the local teams visiting Central York for the Koller Classic.
Thursday, May 8 >> Northeastern visits Central York for the regular-season finale. The league tournament begins the following Monday with the championship Tuesday.