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Hempfield sticks to the script, wins state title

Another 5-set victory over Penn Manor defines Black Knights' run to 10th championship

STATE COLLEGE – Hempfield has made a habit of five-set nail-biting matches during the PIAA Class AAA boys’ volleyball tournament. So why not have one more in the championship match?

The Black Knights needed five sets to win in their quarterfinal and semifinal victories. It was more of the same in the finals against Penn Manor, a fellow Lancaster-Lebanon League team it had faced six previous times this season.

Despite dropping the first two sets, Hempfield came alive in the middle set, got on a roll in the fourth, and saved its best for last in the fifth set, capturing the state title 23-25, 25-27, 26-24, 25-22, 15-10.

It marked the Black Knights’ 10th PIAA championship, breaking a tie with Haverford atop the list of titles.

“You don’t think you are ever going to get back there again,” said coach Mike Vogel, who pointed to his players and added, “They worked their tail off to get this old coach back here.”

It also avenged the Knights’ only loss of the season, which came against Penn Manor in the District 3 championship.

Senior Tyler Buterbaugh made the most of his final high school swing, and it was his kill that ended the emotional match.

“It’s incredible. I am speechless,” he said of scoring the game winner. “(Setter) Ethan (Williams) put the ball where it needed to be.”

It was the Knights’ defense that turned the match around. Comets’ 6-foot-6 outside hitter Sam Greenslade had his way early on, including drilling 10 of his game high 33 kills, along with two aces, in the second game alone.

But suddenly balls that were hitting the floor earlier were being dug up, and Hempfield’s block became an offensive weapon. Led by 34 from libero Nick Oleksa, the Knights totaled 96 digs for the match. They also blocked for points 19 times, seven by sophomore Gavin Hanzelman.

“Hempfield is known for its defense. We kept balls up all match long. Our block picked up in games four and five,” Vogel said.

“Today they got the best of me a couple of times. That’s what they do,” said Greenslade, who will head to play at George Mason in the fall. “(Oleksa) is an incredible libero. It’s not unexpected when he plays like that.”

Penn Manor trailed 23-20 before Greenslade had five kills and an ace during Penn Manor’s 7-2 to win in the second game.

The Comets trailed for most of the third game, until Greenslade tied it at 24. However, Logan Smiley, who led Hempfield with 19 kills, responded by tapping one over the block, followed by a hitting error and the Knights on the victory board.

Hempfield maintained leads throughout Game 4, including a 20-14 edge, but Penn Manor came back and later cut it to 23-22. However, Matt Sheerin tipped one home and Ian Flood blocked down a 50-50 ball for the win.

The Knights grabbed a lead in the deciding fifth game, and increased it to 10-5 when Hanzelman blocked Greenslade. Buterbaugh did the same to make it 12-8. After the teams exchanged points, Williams’ block made it 14-9.

Greenslade got the next point down, but Buterbaugh answered on championship point, sparking a wild celebration when the final kill hit the floor.

“The only team we lost to all year was Hempfield,” Comets coach Chris Tolesco said. “I couldn’t be more proud of my team.”

Hempfield 3, Penn Manor 2 
23-25, 25-27, 26-24, 25-22, 15-10 
Hempfield stats 
Gavin Hanzelman 9 kills, 7 blocks; Logan Smiley 19 kills, 1 block, 13 digs, 1 ace; Matt Sheerin 13 kills, 3 blocks, 17 digs; Ethan Williams 2 blocks, 10 digs, 47 assists; Nick Oleksa 34 digs. 
Penn Manor stats 
Sam Greenslade 33 kills, 1 block, 15 digs, 3 aces; Alex Newport 10 kills, 1 block, 5 digs; Daniel Fry 9 kills, 7 digs; Reuben Kemrer 3 kills, 2 blocks, 6 digs, 50 assists, 2 aces; Cory Cummings 6 blocks, 2 aces.