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Notebook: Some of Pa. volleyball's best return for Saturday's Koller Classic

When it comes to boys' volleyball, York County can be spoiled.

It's not only home to both defending state champions, but it also hosts two in-season tournaments that attract Pennsylvania's top programs. The second of those tournaments happens Saturday at Central York with the Koller Classic.

To put the event's prestige in perspective, all four state finalists from last year — champions Central and Northeastern, along with North Allegheny and Ambridge — stopped at the Koller Classic on the road to State College. The Bridgers, a Class AA school northwest of Pittsburgh, won last year's event by upending the host Panthers in the final. They also beat Northeastern, which turned around to beat them for a state title.

All of them will return for this one, including Ambridge, which makes a four-hour drive down the Turnpike. Of the 20 participating teams, eight are ranked in this week's Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association top 10s for Classes AAA and AA. Two other schools, Pennsbury and State College, were state-ranked at some point this season. YAIAA members Dallastown and York Suburban also will compete.

The Wildcats, an upstart team under first-year coach Lance Ranck, had some success against Central in late March during the Bobcat Invitational, the first of York County's two big tournaments. In that meeting, the Wildcats pushed Central to the best-of-three-games limit.

"They played a great match against us. It's good to be pushed," Central coach Brad Livingston said then.

After his team's exit against eventual champion Northeastern in the Bobcat semifinals, Livingston stressed that it was "only March." A measurement for his team's improvement can be gauged by its rematch this week against Dallastown, which was swept by Livingston's Panthers, who were missing ill all-state senior Jeremiah Dadeboe.

Central has held a No. 5 ranking in the state coaches' poll for Class AAA, while Northeastern is the top squad in AA. The Bobcats have yet to lose this season, while Central is gaining momentum and finished second Saturday at Fox Chapel's 12-team invite. The Panthers lost in the finals to the hosts, who are ranked atop the state AAA poll, and had seniors Landon Shorts and Dadeboe make the all-tournament team.

Dadeboe missed an additional match Thursday because of an illness. Livingston said Tuesday he hopes Dadeboe can return for the Koller Classic, named after longtime Central coach Bruce Koller and his wife, Barb. The Panthers and 19 other teams will take the court at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday for pool play, which breaks teams into four groups of five.

Quick learner, record breaker

Alexis Baublitz never tried pole vaulting until last June. Within 10 months, she now owns the Central York girls' record after a vault of 10 feet, 6 inches last week at Red Lion.

The Central junior passed Emily Smith's 1999 school record by a foot and has steadily improved in her first three weeks of competing outdoors. The 10-6 jump tied her personal record set during a winter indoor event at the University of Akron. Despite picking up initial success on that circuit, Baublitz said she prefers to jump outdoors and now hopes to compete at the collegiate level. She credited a 12-year gymnastics background for acclimating to the pole vault.

"I think that helps me a lot with vaulting," she said.

Baublitz competed only as a javelin thrower last spring for Central. Her initial exposure to vaulting came after the season at VaultWorX in Camp Hill. Her cousins raved about it, which compelled Baublitz to try it. She is just the latest area vaulter to set a school record.

Last week, West York senior Andrew Moyer set a new Bulldogs record of 12-10. He has since cleared that mark on two occasions, and now owns a 13-3 clearance.

Schmidt Relays' prompt start

The Herb Schmidt Relays begin a weekend of big track-and-field invitationals, starting with Friday's annual event at York Suburban and continuing Saturday with the Jack Roddick Invitational at Shippensburg.

The relays at Suburban will begin at 3 p.m., and Trojans coach Dave Wickenheiser said he expects an emphasis to be placed on starting field events early to compensate for lighting. The Schmidt Relays are typically held on a Saturday, but weather forced this year's event to be rescheduled to Friday.

Nine teams will compete, all from the YAIAA. Saturday's invitational at Shippensburg will attract programs around the state.

Contact Matt Goul at 771-2045.