Northeastern 3, Ambridge 0

STATE COLLEGE - The Northeastern boys' volleyball team may not have been the best Class AA team throughout the season.

The Bobcats, however, proved that they were when it mattered most Saturday against Ambridge at the PIAA Class AA championship game at Rec Hall in State College.

Every facet of their game was spot on against the Bridgers, who entered the contest as the No. 1 ranked team according to the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association. The Bobcats were able to serve-receive successfully and pass the ball to setter Luke Braswell, who had his choice of attackers to choose from.

By the end, Ambridge and their standout Lee Smith felt as if they were run over by a freight train after Northeastern repeated as state champions after a 25-20, 25-15, 25-14 victory.

Northeastern won its second straight championship Saturday.
Northeastern won its second straight championship Saturday. (Bil Bowden photos)

"I guess I can officially say it," Northeastern head coach Matt Wilson said. "We became the best team in the state over the course of the past month. Only one team can usually say that and we're one of them. And we've been dominant in almost every situation."

Sweeping a team the caliber of Ambridge, however came as a shock to many. With players like Smith and Brandon Buck leading up an attack, not many could have foreseen the Bobcats prevailing in this fashion.

"I knew the competition was going to be the best that it could be," Northeastern senior Matt Hollinger said. "Ambridge is a good team but I kind of felt like they didn't play their best today, but we came out and gave it our all."

The Bobcats were able to take control of both Games 1 and 2 with runs midway through each game. In both instances, Northeastern broke an 11-11 deadlock with a string of points - six in Game 1 and four in Game 2 - to get momentum firmly on their side.

In Game 3 they were able to take control earlier as Devilbiss scored seven of his 15 kills to help the Bobcats out to an 18-9 advantage.

Hollinger was one of four Bobcats to finished with five or more kills for the match. The senior outside tallied nine kills to go with two aces. Reese Devilbiss, the team's top attacker all year, finished with 15 kills while Philip White added 11 more in the victory. Senior middle Casey Winand tallied five kills.

Those four hitters took turns throughout pivotal points during the first two games. In Game 3, it was seemingly all Devilbiss, who is now 2-for-2 in gold medals during his time at Northeastern.

"Reese is the man," Bobcat coach Matt Wilson said. "There's no doubt about that. All season he's had to make the adjustment - I can it the collegiate adjustment - where everyone is keying on (him). And he went through some growing pains, but as evidenced by today's situation, he has been spectacular all season."

Braswell, who missed both previous contests against Ambridge at tournaments with a shin injury, has been a calming force for his team since returning from a nearly one-month layoff. Hollinger felt that his presence on the court was a big reason they were able to turn things around against the Bridgers.

"We didn't have Luke when we played them at State College and the Koller Classic back in April," Hollinger said of his setter, who finished with 32 assists. "Having him on the court helped tremendously."

Braswell, a Penn State recruit, was able to cap off his team's victory with a dump kill on championship point to help set off a wild celebration.

"Way to cap it off for Luke Braswell," Wilson said. "Last year he tried it and got blocked on championship point and we said 'don't you ever do that again'. So he tried it and this time it worked."

Wilson pointed to the day after his club was dropped by Central York in the York-Adams League playoff finals as a turning point. The Bobcats have not dropped a single game after that disappointment and proved to be dominant again Saturday.

"That was a moment there where we really had to sit back and say to ourselves, 'hey, are we willing to step up and become that dominant team?'" he said. "And we did."

Central York 3, North Allegheny 0

STATE COLLEGE - Moments before taking the court for the PIAA Class AAA boys' volleyball finals at Rec Hall in State College, the Central York squad exchanged high-fives and handshakes with their Northeastern rivals.

The Bobcats, who were in the midst of celebrating back-to-back state titles, walked past a Panther group that was waiting to get on the court for warmups before their showdown with North Allegheny.

"Now it's your turn," one of the Northeastern players said to the Central guys.

The Panthers may not have needed any further motivation, but nevertheless followed suit.

The No. 1 ranked Class AAA team in the state according to the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association swept defending champion North Allegheny, 25-17, 25-21, 25-19.

It marked the program's second title in the past four years and sixth overall. It also completed a banner day for the York-Adams League, which claimed both the AA and AAA titles for the first time ever.

"We were glad to have Northeastern pulling for us and I think they were glad that we pulled for them," Central York head coach Brad Livingston said. "But that doesn't mean that we won't have a knock-down, drag-out fight next year."

While the Panthers swept the Tigers, doing so wasn't easy. The defending state champs displayed, on many occasions, the knack for keeping Central's attacks off the ground. That fact was never lost on Livingston, who is hoping to see North Allegheny a few times again next season.

"When you're playing on the best programs in the state of Pennsylvania, which NA is, you can't ask for anything more than that," Livingston said. "And we hope we meet them here again next year."

Central was able to regain an early lead in Game 1 by breaking a 13-13 deadlock with a 7-2 run. They did it again in Game 2 with the score even at 19-all with a three-point surge.

After a back-and-forth Game 3, the Panthers once again used a 3-0 run to break another deadlock, this one at 11-all, before closing out the sweep.

"Knowing that we have five guys on the court at any time that can put the ball down really helps us," said Panther senior Alex Klunk. "And (setter) Dylan (Hose) showed that he can put the ball down himself."

Hose dished out 36 assists in the victory With Jason Gardner smashing down 13 of those for kills. Royce Clemens added 12 kills to go with 10 digs and five blocks, Jeremiah Dadeboe tallied nine kills and four blocks, while Klunk finished with four kills and four blocks.

"This is awesome," Hose said. "This is the best way to go out as a Central York athlete with a state championship. There's nothing better than this."