By Lisa Renwick
York Suburban has had the same issue in the state boys volleyball playoffs as several teams in District 10 have over the years: Northeastern.
Northeastern had dominated PIAA Class 2A volleyball since the tournament format moved from pool play to bracketing in 2013, winning six straight titles. The Bobcats also denied Meadville a state title when the two teams met in the championship match back in 2010.
However, Northeastern — now a 3A team — no longer stands in the way of gold in Class 2A.
The Bulldogs are just hoping it isn’t another team wearing orange hoisting the championship trophy this afternoon.
Meadville and York Suburban square off for the PIAA Class 2A championship today at noon at Penn State University’s Pegula Ice Arena.
The Trojans, who are looking for the program’s first-ever state crown, enter the title match at 17-4. They were the District 3 runner-up, losing to Manheim Central in the district championship match. However, York Suburban earned its spot in the state final by turning the tables on Manheim Central in the semifinals, winning in four sets.
“We’re a well-balanced team,” York Suburban coach Oliver Good said. “We have a lot of players who have the capability of stepping up and they have taken turns stepping up throughout the year. We don’t really have that one player who shines and everyone else is in the background.”
The Trojans do have a pair of pretty good hitters, however, who do tend to stand out a bit. The first is Messiah College recruit Nate Bowman, a 6-foot-3 senior middle/outside hitter. Bowman has 367 kills, 27 service aces, 175 digs and 73 blocks on the year thus far. Declan Ridings, a 6-3 middle hitter, has 349 kills, 36 aces, 126 digs and 30 blocks.
The Trojans’ setter, Noah Chojnacki, has 621 assists to go along with 168 digs and 25 aces. Harrison Gettle controls the backcourt as the squad’s libero and has 343 digs on the year.
On the other side of the net from the Trojans will be Meadville. The District 10 champions come into the match with a record of 19-0. They punched their ticket to the final with a four-set victory over WPIAL champion Ambridge in the semifinals.
“Meadville is on the opposite side of the state as we are, so it’s hard to know a lot about them,” Good said. “We know they are a good team; they are in the state final. We were at tournament Meadville was at State College and in the very minimal time I saw them, I would say they really compare to us.
“They’re very consistent. They have a lot of nice players who can step up and do some nice things.”
Outside hitter Aiden Miller has been the go-to for the Bulldogs. He has a team-best 351 kills with 55 aces, 27 blocks and 171 digs. Fellow senior Tucker Watson, a middle hitter, has 134 kills and 37 blocks.
Freshman Julian Jones has 105 kills, 23 aces and 151 digs. Setter Paul Leech has 157 digs, 39 blocks, 23 service aces and 75 kills.
“The one thing I really remember about them is their setter is aggressive and likes to attack the ball and get it to the hot hands. He’s tall too and has a good block. I think he may stress out some of our hitters a bit.
“Then they have a couple of good outsides who are tall and lengthy. They contact the ball really high and do some nice things when they are attacking.”
Meadville is making its fourth trip to the state championship match. The Bulldogs were runner-ups in 1962, 1965 and 2010. They won the title in 1964, the school’s lone PIAA team state title.
“York Suburban is a good team,” Meadville coach Nick Bancroft said. “We just need to take care of ourselves though. I don’t care which team we play. If we eliminate our errors — which is the story of volleyball — we’ll be OK.”
Added Good, “When you look at it, it makes sense we are in the final. We’re both consistent. Not flashy. We pass, set and hit the ball well. Looking at their body of work, they’ve put together a strong season. It makes sense we are the two teams rolling and fighting for the PIAA gold.”