National title in sight for Northeastern?
Winning three straight state titles is great. It's more than impressive. And it's rarely accomplished. But Northeastern boys' volleyball has another goal in mind: a national title.
This summer they'll have a chance to accomplish that.
NEVA, a club team comprised entirely of Northeastern players and coached by Bobcats head coach Matt Wilson, is heading to Dallas in June to play against the top 36 teams from around the country in the USA Volleyball Boys' Junior National Championships.
NEVA qualified in the open division, a more elite level than the club division, by finishing third at Penn State's Nittany Ninvitational a week after coming in fifth at the Rochester Can-Am.
While the majority of the teams that qualify for the open division in nationals are regional all-star squads comprised of rosters stacked with the best talent from an entire city or region, Northeastern's team is just Northeastern. And that's more than enough. NEVA has played with the big boys for years, qualifying for nationals in the open division five times and finishing 22nd last year.
"The national talent is nothing like you see during the high school season," Wilson said. "They're the very best."
"All of the teams are like all-star teams so they have the best of the best from their area," Brandon Arentz added. "Meanwhile we're only a school team. The majority of the top teams have multiple guys going D-I ... You play against guys who are 6-foot-6 and above. In high school we really don't see it that much. The speed of play is quicker, too, because all of the teams you play against are experienced and well-skilled."
Arentz, who plays alongside fellow Bobcats and YAIAA all-stars Reese Devilbiss, Jeff Reynolds and Matt Schaeffer, says the NEVA team isn't intimidated by being on the big stage, and their success is no surprise, he said.
"We were not surprised at all at getting a bid," Arentz said. "We got a bid last year ... so we already knew we could play with the best of the best. Our goal this season was to win it all, honestly."
Devilbiss shared Arentz's confidence, adding that a top 15 finish this time around is well within reach.
"Throughout our years here at Northeastern we have been trained to not fear anyone on the other side of the net," Devilbiss said. "We have been playing against this type of competition for years so we are used to it by now...I believe that we can finish in the top 15 this year. We have improved many different aspects of our game which I think will lead to more success this year."
Wilson echoed the same sentiment. Winning is always the goal, he said. But even if a gold medal and national title don't come back to Manchester with the team, just being there and being a part of the qualifying process can help Northeastern when it's time to get back on the high school court and chase a fourth-straight state title.
"We are always looking to learn in all situations," Wilson said. "And we aim to learn how teams may want to address us and how we need to make adjustments going forward ... It's always the same goal (though): Win it."
Brandon Arentz, Reese Devilbiss, Jeff Reynolds, Matt Schaeffer, Chris Lee, Drew Landis, Dakoda Hoffman, James Toomey, Nate Eyster, Braxton Sowers.
More local talent
NEVA will be joined in Dallas by Yorktowne 18 blue, a York-area based team that includes Dylan Fry (Dallastown), Quinlan Kauffman (Susquehannock) and Hayden Wagner (Central York).