Back for more: Bobcats return to title match
Northeastern head coach Matt Wilson speaks on how the Bobcats handle the pressure of chasing a fourth-straight state title. Brandon Stoneburg
Northeastern ousts York Suburban in PIAA semifinals, seeks 4th state title
It was the toughest game Northeastern had played in the 2016 Class AA boys' volleyball state tournament and the Bobcats still swept their way to another victory. The Bobcats punched their ticket to their fourth consecutive PIAA state championship appearance on Tuesday night with a 3-0 win over York Suburban in the semifinals.
Northeastern swept York Suburban 25-19, 25-23, 25-14. Northeastern will face Ambridge at 11 a.m. at Rec Hall on the campus of Penn State University for the Class AA title.
The all-York matchup proved to be the Bobcats' biggest test, as they slugged their way through the first two games with the Trojans. And it was in the second game that Suburban nearly came away with a win to tie the match.
“They definitely brought a great game tonight,” Jeff Reynolds said. “Our passing wasn’t the best tonight and we had some miscues a lot during the first two games.”
The second game was a battle, as both teams went on stretches where they picked up consecutive points. The Trojans opened the game with a 3-0 run, before the Bobcats went on a run of their own to eventually tie the game at six.
Northeastern managed to wrestle the lead away moments later, but Suburban remained right on their heels. After Northeastern took a 19-16 lead the Trojans picked up three-straight points to even the score. The Bobcats retook the lead before York Suburban tied the game right back up.
Finally the Bobcats took another two-point lead and held the Trojans off to win the second game. They returned to form in the third game and closed out the match.
“There’s been a lot of pressure I think on us,” Northeastern coach Matt Wilson said. “At this point we’ve won virtually everything and you just start to feel it down the stretch. I thought today we played pretty tight… Credit to our attackers and our defenders, they kept playing regardless. So that’s a sign of a pretty great team.”
The closeness of the first two games was a rarity for Northeastern, which has advanced with relative ease through the first two rounds of the state tournament. During Saturday’s win over Crestwood the Bobcats only surrendered 21 in the entire match, while Wednesday saw their opponent put up 23 points in the second game alone.
It was also the first time in the state tournament that Northeastern had given up more than 12 points in a game.
The tightness of the match brought a rare show of emotion from Wilson on the bench. The longtime Northeastern coach slammed his book down after his squad won the second game and was very vocal in the huddle before the third game.
“I haven’t seen him like that for a while,” senior outside hitter Reese Devilbiss said. “It was great to see it again. I kind of miss it.”
The Bobcats approach all season has been a business-like one. The team isn’t one to show too much emotion during the game, while Suburban in contrast is one that is very emotional.
“One of the specific keys to this match was the ability to push back emotionally,” Wilson said. “We’re sort of methodical and somewhat mechanical in how we go about our business, but today I really wanted to push back emotionally… They survived it and we’re moving on.”
The Trojans can take some solace in giving the Bobcats one of their most competitive matches all tournament.
“If you want to be the best then you have to beat the best, and they are the best. And we competed,” Suburban coach Jamie Evans said. “We did everything we could. We tried to zero in on certain things and I think it was successful when we were able to follow through on that game plan. Just passing went away a little bit and when we got passes the offense went away a little bit.”