Central blasts back to YAIAA championship
The Dallastown and York Suburban boys' volleyball teams advanced to the YAIAA tournament semifinals.
Uncharted waters didn’t frighten Central York on Tuesday night.
Unfazed after being taken to a fifth and deciding game for the first time all year, Central York had just enough left from Cole Johnson, Carter Luckenbaugh and the rest of the Panthers to finish off two-time defending league champion Northeastern in a seesaw, 3-2 victory at Dallastown High School.
Central’s Braden Richard smashed home one of his 20 kills to seal Central’s 25-17, 25-18, 22-25, 23-25, 15-10 victory and bring home the YAIAA tournament title.
“We just kept fighting … and stayed together, which was a big part of it,” said Johnson, who had 28 kills.
He watched Central go back to its strength, a complete team effort, in the deciding game.
“We just have to go out there and play fearlessly,” Luckenbaugh said. “Cole got on a service run there, and we just kept pounding them.”
Johnson wanted to make a difference in Game 5, after being upset and angry with his own service performance on the day despite hitting six aces in the championship match.
“I missed a lot of serves up until that,” Johnson said.
“I’m going to break this apart and finish this,” Johnson said about his thoughts in the deciding game.
Adding to Central’s lead, he pushed the Panthers within just a couple points of the title.
“It feels amazing,” Luckenbaugh said. “This is my first time doing it, this momentum is good for us heading into District 3 (tournament play) next week.”
Central’s players didn’t forget their roots, either.
Rushing from the medal ceremony to former coach Brad Livingston, the seniors who had played under the longtime coach as freshmen and sophomores handed him a medal and posed for pictures with Livingston.
“To us he’s still part of this team, he helped build us into the players we are,” Luckenbaugh said.
The match also signaled a turning point for the Northeastern program. Just a week after dropping a 3-0 regular-season showdown at Central, Northeastern came to life in Game 3 of the tournament title match.
Despite trailing 2-0, the Bobcats managed to win a pair of back-to-back, high-pressure games, including a Game 4 that featured eight ties.
“This is a team that’s trying to figure out how to play on the big stage and bright lights, and I think we began to learn how to do that tonight,” Northeastern coach Matt Wilson said. “We started forgetting about what’s around us, and just worry about what’s in front of us.”
While Central York rolled to a 25-17, 25-12, 25-22 victory against York Suburban in the league semifinal earlier in the day, Northeastern needed to rally for a 14-25, 25-10, 25-20, 25-23 victory against Dallastown. After starting off Game 2 of the semifinal as the more energetic team, Wilson told his players during a timeout, “Welcome back.”
And that seemed to be the turning point for the whole day.
“Look, Northeastern doesn’t go away … we take it seriously,” Wilson said. “We’re not just going to continue to be a punching bag. I’m proud, and in a loss it’s rare I say those things.
“But I’m pretty proud in how we responded and I’m pretty proud with the demeanor. We stood in there and took the shots. A great team beat us.”
Past YAIAA tournament champions
2017: Central York
2014: Central York
2012: York Suburban
2011: Central York
2008: Central York
2005: New Oxford
2004: New Oxford
2002: Central York