Archive for the ‘Boys’ Volleyball’ Category


The Northeastern boys’ volleyball team poses with the PIAA Class AA state championship trophy in 2013. The PIAA is considering expanding the number

The Northeastern boys’ volleyball team poses with the PIAA Class AA state championship trophy in 2013. The PIAA is considering expanding the number of classes in the football playoffs, which could lead to expanded classes in other sports, too, such as volleyball. (RYAN VANDERSLOOT — For The York Dispatch)

A high school state sports championship should mean something truly special.

It should be the culmination of years of blood, sweat and tears.

It should be a symbol of not just sustained excellence, but unrivaled greatness.


Northeastern senior Reese Devilbiss enjoyed a breakout performance for the United States Boys’ Youth National Volleyball Team on Sunday.

Devilbiss recorded 12 kills and one ace for 13 points to help the national team beat China 25-21, 25-23, 25-15 to take seventh place overall at the 2015 FIVB Boys’ Under-19 World Championship in Argentina.

The U.S. finished seventh out of 20 teams, which marks the first time the U.S. boys have ever placed in the top half of competition. Seventh place is tied for the highest finish the Americans have ever had at the World Championship, however the previous seventh place was out of just 12 teams in 1995.

Northeastern’s Reese Devilbiss had three kills on Wednesday vs. Mexico for Team USA.

Northeastern’s Reese Devilbiss had three kills on Wednesday vs. Mexico for Team USA. (YORK DISPATCH FILE PHOTO)

After going a perfect 4-0 in group play for the first time in team history, Team USA continued to roll in the 2015 FIVB Boys’ Under-19 World Championships in Argentina, knocking off Mexico 3-0 in the Round of 16 on Wednesday.

Team USA had its most convincing win of the tournament, thus far, winning in straight games, 25-18, 25-16, 25-22.

Individually, Northeastern High School senior Reese Devilbiss also had his most productive match of the tournament. Devilbiss, who is one of three members on the team still in high school, was used sparingly in the four group-stage matches, but finally had a chance to show his talent against Mexico. He played in each of the last two games, starting the third, and recorded three kills in the match.

Team USA will now face the winner of Russia vs. Bulgaria in its quarterfinal match.

Team USA earned its third win in three matches of group play on Monday with a 3-1 victory over France at the 2015 FIVB U19 Boys’ World Championships in Argentina.

With the 26-24, 25-21, 23-25, 25-16 win, Team USA stays atop the Group A table with seven points through three matches.

Northeastern High School senior Reese Devilbiss played in the second and third games of the match, but failed to record any points in the match. Team USA’s final group-play match is on Wednesday at 8 p.m. eastern time against the host nation Argentina. Argentina is the only other unbeaten team in Group A.


Northeastern boys’ volleyball player Reese Devilbiss is going to compete in Argentina.

Northeastern boys’ volleyball player Reese Devilbiss is going to compete in Argentina. (JOHN A. PAVONCELLO —

Reese Devilbiss has never been outside the country.

In a little less than a month, he’ll begin his senior year at Northeastern High School, but by that point, he’ll have a new perspective on life. And an appreciation for at least one other culture in the world.

This past Friday, Devilbiss was named to the 2015 Boys’ Youth National Volleyball Team and on Monday, he’ll be on his way to Argentina for the 2015 FIVB Boys’ Under-19 World Championships. To make the final, 12-man roster, he outlasted a starting field of 24 players, two roster cut-downs and competition against some of the best players in the country, many of which are a year older than him.



Northeastern’s Reese Devilbiss is one of six Class AA all-state boys’ volleyball players on the Bobcats’ team. The junior is a three-time
Northeastern’s Reese Devilbiss is one of six Class AA all-state boys’ volleyball players on the Bobcats’ team. The junior is a three-time all-state selection. The all-state team is selected by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association. (JOHN A. PAVONCELLO —

It’s the middle of July.

The Northeastern boys’ volleyball team hasn’t hit a spike in anger in more than a month.

Yet, the accolades keep pouring in for the Bobcats.

That is what you call excellence.

Northeastern has been nothing but excellent over the last three years en route to winning three straight PIAA Class AA state championships.

The latest evidence of the Bobcats’ dominance came when the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association recently announced their all-state teams.

The AA all-state squad included six Northeastern players. That’s not a misprint.

When you consider that there can only be six players on a volleyball court at one time, that’s a truly staggering accomplishment. The six Bobcats represented more than 27 percent of the 22-player AA all-state team.

But the state volleyball coaches knew what they were doing. The honors were definitely deserved.

After all, Northeastern didn’t drop a single game all season in a best-of-five match. In the 25-9, 25-22, 25-12 state final beatdown vs. Saegertown, the Bobcats set a championship match record for fewest points allowed (43) since the change to rally scoring began in 2004.

The 2015 all-state Bobcats were outside hitter Reese Devilbiss, outside hitter Brandon Arentz, libero Chris Lee, middle hitter Jeff Reynolds, setter Matt Schaeffer and outside hitter Philip White.

Devilbiss, of course, was no surprise. The 6-foot, 3-inch Ohio State recruit is now a three-time all-state performer and he still has one year of eligibility remaining. Devilbiss was also recently named one of 25 underclassmen to watch nationally by Volleyball Magazine.

The 6-2 Arentz and the 6-3 White are repeat all-state selections. Lee (5-10), Reynolds (6-3) and Schaeffer (6-0) are first-time selections.

But you want to know something truly scary?

Devilbiss, Arentz, Lee, Reynolds and Schaeffer are all heading into their senior seasons. The Bobcats may be even better next spring.

Northeastern head coach Matt Wilson addressed the 2016 Bobcats’ expectations shortly after they won the 2015 state crown.

“I don’t know what to expect yet,” Wilson said. “But here’s what I do expect. I expect that they (the players) will push us (the coaches). It won’t be long, and I’ll want my little break and they won’t allow it to happen. They’ll start texting, ‘hey, when can we get into the gym?’ And that’s the DNA of these guys. They’re thirsty for more, they want more and they’re willing to do more. And that striving to be great and seeking greatness and a legacy of greatness, that’s what they’re about.”

Yes, “greatness” is what the Northeastern program is all about. They now own six overall state titles and No. 7 could very well come next spring.

And next July, the Bobcats will likely again dominate when the 2016 all-state selections are announced.

Central York trio also honored: While Northeastern garnered most of the headlines this past season, the Bobcats were certainly not the only outstanding York-Adams League team to take to the court.

The Central York Panthers had a pretty fair season themselves, finishing second to the Bobcats in both the York-Adams regular season and playoff tournament. The Panthers then won the District 3-AAA title and advanced to the state quarterfinals.

Coach Brad Livingston’s crew landed three players on the PVCA all-state AAA team: Jeremiah Dadeboe (6-2, senior, outside hitter), Jason Gardner (6-3, senior, outside hitter/middle hitter) and Landon Shorts (6-3, senior, setter/outside hitter). All three are repeat selections. A total of 32 players earned all-state recognition in AAA.

The Panthers, of course, have a pretty fair volleyball tradition of their own, having earned six state championships, with the most recent one coming in 2014.

Braswell recognized: In a related note, Northeastern graduate Luke Braswell was selected among the top 50 recruits in the nation by Volleyball Magazine in the class of 2015.

He was one of three Pennsylvania players honored.

The 6-foot, 5-inch setter is bound for Penn State. He graduated from Northeastern after the 2014 state championship season, but opted to defer on attending PSU until 2015.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at



• Chris Booth, 6-3, sr., OH, Hempfield

• Jeremiah Dadeboe, 6-2, sr., OH, Central York

• Michael Fisher, 6-3, sr., OH, Cumberland Valley

• Dawson Funk, 6-2, sr., S, Penn Manor

• Jason Gardner, 6-3, sr., OH/MH, Central York

• Sam Greenslade, 6-5, jr., OH, Penn Manor

• Jacob Kerschner, 6-4, sr. S, Central Dauphin

• Ben Naumann, 6-3, sr., OH, Hempfield

• Nick Oleksa, 5-8, jr., LIB, Hempfield

• Landon Shorts, 6-3, sr. S/OH, Central York


• Ben Chinnici, 6-4, so., OH, Pennridge

• Mark Elias, 6-3, sr., S, North Penn

• Josh Hinton, 6-2, sr., OH, Council Rock North

• Jake Milnazik, 6-2, jr., OH, William Tennent

• Bradley Nase, 6-2, sr., S, Pennridge

• Devon Rice, 6-1, sr., OH, Pennridge

• Jason Yakimiv, 6-7, jr., MH, Council Rock North


• Ben DePellegrini, 6-1, sr., OH, Fox Chapel

• Max DePellegrini, 6-1, sr., S, Fox Chapel

• Jake Dixon, 6-6, jr., OH, Bethel Park

• Tyler Herrmann, 6-2, sr., OH, Seneca Valley

• Steve Jones, 5-9, sr., LIB, Seneca Valley

• Taylor Matthews, 6-4, sr., MH, Seneca Valley

• Andrew Tublin, 6-4, sr., OH, Fox Chapel

• Jaysen Zaleski, 6-3, sr., MH, Fox Chapel


• Pat Bryan, 6-5, sr., OH, Emmaus

• Jake Heyer, 6-6, jr., MH, Parkland

• Andrew Hillman, 6-2, sr., S/OPP, Parkland

• Sean Lewis, 6-2, sr., OH, Parkland

• Jared Silverstein, 5-8, jr., LIB, Parkland

• Kyle Stout, 6-6, jr., OH, Parkland

• Gabe Woffindin, 6-4, sr., OH, William Allen



• Brandon Arentz, 6-2, jr., OH, Northeastern

• Reese Devilbiss, 6-3, jr., OH, Northeastern

• Chris Lee, 5-10, jr., LIB, Northeastern

• Frank Melvin, 6-6, sr., OH, Schuylkill Valley

• Jeff Reynolds, 6-3, jr., MH, Northeastern

• Jarred Sands, 6-4, sr., MH, Lancaster Mennonite

• Matt Schaeffer, 6-0, jr., S, Northeastern

• Mitch Stauffer, 6-4, sr., MH, Cocalico

• Philip White, 6-3, sr., OH, Northeastern


• John Carr, 6-8, jr., MH, Holy Redeemer

• Mike Conlon, 6-0, sr., S/OH, Holy Redeemer

• Mike Gatusky, 6-2, sr., OH, Holy Redeemer


• Anthony Baronio, 6-1, jr., OH, Ambridge

• Capen Brendle, 5-11, jr., S/OH, Ambridge

• Ray Cascio, 6-5, sr., MH, Obama Academy

• Connor Claussen, 6-4, jr., S, Obama Academy

• Nico Latta, 6-0, sr., OH, Derry

• Ian Malis, 6-2, sr., MH, Derry


• Alex Barclay, 6-4, sr., OH, Saegertown

• Brendon Barclay, 6-5, sr., OH, Saegertown

• Peter Mattocks, 6-2, jr., MH, Saegertown

• Walker Stone, 6-3, jr., S, Fort LeBoeuf


The Northeastern boys’ volleyball team celebrates after defeating Saegertown, 25-9, 25-22, 25-12, in the PIAA Class AA championship match. The 43

The Northeastern boys’ volleyball team celebrates after defeating Saegertown, 25-9, 25-22, 25-12, in the PIAA Class AA championship match. The 43 points allowed is the fewest by a team in a title game since the change to rally scoring in 2004. (Dawn J. Sagert – The York Dispatch)

STATE COLLEGE – There was just one thing on Philip White’s mind during match-point of the PIAA Class AA boys’ volleyball title match against Saegertown Saturday at Rec Hall in State College.

And it was probably the same idea floating around the head of fellow Northeastern senior Matt Thorton as well.

With the Panther senior Alex Barclay about to strike the ball, Thorton and White anticipated what they were going to make happen next.

“I was like, ‘let’s block this kid’,” said White, who finished with 11 kills, an ace and three blocks. “And we did.”

That block set off a wild celebration from the Northeastern players on the court, capping off a 25-9, 25-22, 25-12 triumph.

The victory marked the third PIAA Class AA title in a row, and sixth overall, for the Bobcat program.

Reese Devilbiss slams down one of his team-high 14 kills for the Northeastern boys’ volleyball team Saturday.

Reese Devilbiss slams down one of his team-high 14 kills for the Northeastern boys’ volleyball team Saturday. (Dawn J. Sagert – The York Dispatch)

It also set a championship match record for fewest points allowed (43) since the change to rally scoring back in 2004.”It’s a really good feeling to get to that last point,” White said.

And it was only fitting that those two seniors had a hands-on effect in securing a three-peat for the storied program.

Probably a little bit more for Thorton, who had to sit back and bide his time before finally cracking the starting rotation this season.

“Yeah, I think it’s awesome,” Thorton said. “When I had a (chance) to take over Casey (Winand’s) spot, I took it as a challenge.”

A challenge is definitely what the Panthers faced throughout Saturday’s contest. Saegertown, the team anointed as the preseason favorites by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association poll, never was able to get on track in Game 1. After briefly tying the match at 1-1, the Panthers were done in by a 14-4 run by the Bobcats.

Junior Reese Devilbiss, an Ohio State recruit, led the way in that game where he tallied many of his team-best 14 kills for the contest.

Saegertown, however, rebounded to give Northeastern a serious scare in Game 2.

The Northeastern boys’ volleyball team celebrates after winning their third PIAA Class AA title in a row.

The Northeastern boys’ volleyball team celebrates after winning their third PIAA Class AA title in a row. (Dawn J. Sagert – The York Dispatch)

The Panthers evened the score on five occasions in Game 2 before a 12-5 run by Northeastern had them on the cusp of taking a 2-0 lead in the match.The District 10 champs were able to make a run of it behind a string of impressive serves by Brendon Barclay. Down 24-17, the Panthers used a 5-0 run to draw within 24-22, forcing Wilson to call a pair of timeouts in the process.

Those 22 points scored by Saegertown were also the most the Bobcats allowed in a single game since Central York scored 23 in the York-Adams League championship contest.

Any sense of a anxiety along the Northeastern side, however, was relieved when Barclay’s last serve sailed into the net.

“One of the big differentiators between this team and the one’s in the past is that (this team) doesn’t give up runs of points,” Wilson said. “And that’s because they minimize their errors. We don’t commit a lot of errors, so that was a bit uncharacteristic for us in terms of giving up three or four points in a row. And the first thing I said in the second timeout is that he (Barclay) still needs to get his jump-serve in. And, fortunately for us, (he) did miss the serve.”

The Bobcats quickly took charge in Game 3, racing out to a 10-5 lead early. They continued to extend the lead up until championship point, when White and Thorton capped off the triumph.

It didn’t take long afterward for Wilson to get asked about the future. Winning three state titles in a row is extremely uncommon. In fact, the Bobcats became just the fifth school to pull off the feat.

In order for Wilson and his talented group of assistants to pull that off takes more than just one special class of athletes. So it’s no surprise that Wilson gave credit to players like Thorton and junior Brandon Arentz as examples of players seizing control of their opportunities.

Thorton finished with two kills and three blocks for the match while Arentz tallied seven kills and a block.

“Brandon has been flying under the radar, not with us (coaches),” Wilson said. “He is probably our best kept secret outside of Matt Thorton. Those two our most improved and consistent players that have shown up. And that, I think, is what really has propelled us to be in a very dominant situation.”

That dominant situation figures to see the Bobcats as the favorites to make it four titles in a row come next season. With only two starters, Northeastern should be in great shape with the likes of Devilbiss, Arentz, Jeff Reynolds, Chris Lee and Drew Landis returning.

As for Wilson, well he was a bit coy on setting any precise expectation this early.

“I don’t know what to expect yet,” Wilson said. “But here’s what I do expect. I expect that they will push us (coaches). It won’t be long, and I’ll want my little break and they won’t allow it to happen. They’ll start texting, ‘hey, when can we get into the gym?’ And that’s the DNA of these guys. They’re thirsty for more, they want more and they’re willing to do more. And that striving to be great and seeking greatness and a legacy of greatness, that’s what they’re about.”


Senior Matt Thornton, seen here in action from earlier this season, helped Northeastern win its third straight PIAA Class AA state title.

Senior Matt Thornton, seen here in action from earlier this season, helped Northeastern win its third straight PIAA Class AA state title. (YORK DISPATCH FILE PHOTO)

When the fire trucks carrying the victorious PIAA Class AA state champion Northeastern boys’ volleyball team made their way through Manchester Saturday evening, it was very special to all the players and coaches.

But if may have been a little more special to one person in particular — Bobcat senior Matt Thornton.

Sure, it was Thornton’s third time aboard the convoy of champions. But this was the first one in which Thornton played a big role.

The middle hitter finished with two kills and three blocks to help his team to a record-setting 25-9, 25-22, 25-12 victory over Saegertown Saturday in State College.

So as Thornton waved his hands at the Northeastern fans who lined the street to celebrate the program’s third state title in a row, he savored the feeling.

We caught up with Thornton, who plans to attend North Carolina-Charlotte in the fall, to discuss his volleyball career, his future and a number of other things for this edition of Sports Q&A.

Q: Now that 24 hours have passed since the victory, what are your emotions and thoughts on everything that happened Saturday?

A: “It feels good. We drove through the town where our school is and we were in fire trucks. And that’s pretty unreal. And to do it for a third time in a row is just an unbelievable feeling at this point.”

Q: What was your favorite moment from Saturday?

A: “I’d have to say riding the fire trucks. When you’re sitting up there and going through town, you just sort of notice that you just won the state championship and that everyone recognizes you. That’s just a really cool feeling.”

Q: Was this time more special since you were one of the starters on the team?

A: “Yeah, I think it was. Last year I was sitting on the bench. Now every year is special, but it’s just that this year I felt like I was more involved. Last year I was Casey Winand’s backup and I was still having fun, but this year was definitely a lot more exciting being on the court and being a part of it.”

Q: Did you guys do anything extra to celebrate other than riding those fire trucks?

A: “Every year the day after states we have an outdoor doubles tournament and that’s our way of celebrating. I played with Drew Landis. We did pretty good. I think we finished in the semifinals of the tournament. They’re still playing right now, but Drew had to go to work, so I went home. But our whole team plays and it’s pretty fun.”

Q: So who were the teams?

A: “Reese (Devilbiss) played with Chris Lee, Phil (White) played with Matt Schaeffer, Nic Destevens played with Wyatt Holder, Jeff Reynolds played with Brandon Arentz.”

Q: Who was the best team out of the bunch?

A: “Phil and Matt were undefeated and I believe Chris and Reese were right behind them.”

Q: What was your perspective of the final point of the match Saturday? Did you get a part of that block?

A: “No, it was just Phil by himself. But when we were up at the net, we knew it was going to come out to No. 5 (Alex Barclay). So I said to Phil, ‘hey, you know it’s going to come out here.’ And Phil just said, ‘yeah, let’s block this kid.’ It was definitely an unreal thing. I had a feeling that he was going to get it and he got it and that was pretty cool.”

Q: How tough was it for you to be a backup the past two years?

A: “It was pretty tough. Now Casey Winand was an effective middle. So being his backup, I knew I had big shoes to fill when he would leave. I knew that I would have to be just as effective. So it was tough trying to keep up, but it was fun because it was challenging at the same time.”

Q: How do you get through that? Was it just you having to believe that next year is mine?

A: “I didn’t know it was mine because I knew I had to compete for it, but you just have to keep trying and keep pushing forward. Yeah you’re going to get some playing time here and there and playing time is what makes you better, so the little time that you get, you have to make the most out of it and try your hardest. And that’s what got me through it … just trying my hardest. And I knew if I did that I would get my playing time at some point.”

Q: There were four other seniors that really didn’t get much of an opportunity to start. How difficult was it for them?

A: “It had to be really tough. I mean, all of us seniors are fantastic players. They helped us all in practice on the other side of the court hitting, blocking. Now I guarantee that had to be tough for them. I was in the same situation as them last year when I sat on the bench. And I give them a lot of credit because they were there supporting us and cheering every moment of it.”

Q: Who are you most going to miss on the team?

A: “I think I’m going to miss Phil the most. We had a really tight bond. To both be seniors and playing up front all those years we just developed a tight bond. Now I’m going to miss everybody, but probably Phil the most. I would know where he was going to be to set up a block so I could get over. We just had that kind of chemistry.”

A: What is Reese like as a person?

Q: “Reese is really cool. Some people might think he’s quiet and everything but he’s not. He’s just like everybody else. He’ll talk and tell stories and stuff. He’s a very nice person and everything like that. He’s not arrogant. He worked hard for where he’s at. He worked hard in off seasons, middle school, all the way up through. He’s just all-year, everything volleyball.”

Q: Did you play any other sports?

A: “Yeah, when I was real small, probably 5 or 6, I played soccer. I played up until my sophomore year. But I kind of got out of it. I was getting hurt a lot. I had a broken nose and stuff like that. But then I started to notice that I was really liking volleyball a little more and started leaning toward that. After that I quit soccer and just started only playing volleyball.”

Q: When did you start playing volleyball?

A: “I started late, in my eighth-grade year. Some of the other seniors were a year ahead of me when I started. I knew people were playing it in middle school, but I just wasn’t sure. It’s just like everything in life. People are scared (to play) because they don’t think they’re going to do good and, yeah, that’s true. The first time you play you’re not going to play as good as everybody else. So I just came out and tried it and I liked it and stuck with it.”

Q: Coach (Matt) Wilson said Saturday after the game that he kind of cozied up to this team more than he did with teams in the past. Did you get a sense of that at all?

A: “We had a practice Friday night before the game on Saturday and I think he was more relaxed that night than he was in the past. We kind of had a scrimmage for a little bit, where as before he was all about drills and drills and stuff like that. So Friday he was a bit more relaxed and he did that even throughout the season and that kind of relaxed us as a team. I think he trusted us a lot and I think that’s why he was able to have one of those relaxed practices right before the state championship match.”

Q: From a fan’s perspective that is hard to tell, especially when he’s yelling at the team like he did in the York Suburban match (during districts). So he doesn’t really give off the vibe that he will put up with a lot of nonsense, right?

A: “Yeah, he won’t put up with that. We know what we need to do and if we’re not doing what we need to do, he’s there to remind us. And that’s good because we do need someone to help us get to where we need to be.”

Q: What’s the biggest lesson you learned from playing volleyball?

A: “I think it’s the discipline thing. For soccer you never really had to dress up for games, but, for volleyball, every time you would go to a game you had to dress in a shirt and tie. And that kind of makes sense because you don’t want to look like you’re not totally about business going into a match. And I think that how you’re perceived it really important. Even for jobs, you want to look your best going in there so you let them know that you mean business and this is what you want to do.”

Q: So what’s the future look like for you? Are you going to college? Playing volleyball?

A: “Yeah, I’m going to college. I’m actually going to UNC-Charlotte for motorsport engineering, to deal with race cars and that sort of stuff. Now they don’t really have a men’s volleyball team, but they do have a women’s. But they do have intramural and stuff like that. So I might stay active in it.”

Q: Are you related to family that owns Thornton Chevrolet there in Manchester?

A: “Yeah that’s us. My dad’s cousin owns it so that would be my second cousin. My dad and I both work at the Chevy store so we’ve both stayed involved.”

Q: So the motorsports … what kind of racing are you looking to be involved with?

A: “I’m very involved with the Indy Car and stuff like that. I’m a person that is more about how things work, like with the engines and the suspensions and stuff like that. So I’m into how it works and that’s why I want to go down there because they have their own race team and they build their own cars and race them and stuff like that.”

Q: So do you have any aspirations to be a driver someday?

A: “Yeah, at points. I just am not sure about what I would want to be a driver of, be it NASCAR or Indy Car. At one point I wanted to actually be in professional motocross because I was big into racing ATVs and stuff like that at one point. I’ve always been involved with racing and that’s just something that’s always interested me.”

Q: Finally, what’s the most memorable moment of this season?

A: “I’d have to say Senior Night (vs. West York). We have six seniors and we didn’t get to play with each other very many times at all. So for that night we got to play as a senior class and produce and play well. That was just so cool. I’ll always remember that one.”

— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at


EXETER TOWNSHIP — There are a few perils for a high school coach of a spring sports team.

Especially in sports such as boys’ volleyball, whose season can extend all the way into early June.

Take Northeastern coach Matt Wilson, for instance. With his club gearing up for another run at a PIAA Class AA state title, Wilson had to factor in that the seniors on his squad would be finished with school during the postseason.

So Wilson, never one to allow a team to slack off on the court, presented his six seniors with an ultimatum — show up or stay away.

“We had a discussion with coach,” Northeastern outside hitter Philip White said. “He told us that if we think we’re past the season and are looking forward (to summer), to just get out of the gym.”

The Northeastern boys’ volleyball team celebrates after Tuesday’s 3-0 victory over Holy Redeemer.

The Northeastern boys’ volleyball team celebrates after Tuesday’s 3-0 victory over Holy Redeemer. (JOHN A. PAVONCELLO —

To no one’s surprise, none of the seniors took the coach up on that offer.

Especially White.

Elevating his game during the final days of his senior campaign, White played like a man on a mission Tuesday night in the state semifinals against District 2 champion Holy Redeemer. The Stevenson-bound White finished with 14 kills, five aces and three blocks to lead the Bobcats to an impressive 25-13, 25-14, 25-13 triumph at Exeter Township High School.

Northeastern, winners of the past two state AA titles, will go for a three-peat Saturday at Rec Hall in State College. The District 3 champs will face District 7 champ Saegertown, a 25-20, 25-14, 25-16 winner over Obama Academy in the other semifinal.

White mismatch: White was sensation for much of the contest, taking advantage of a mismatch that Wilson anticipated.

“We liked the matchup,” Wilson said. “Philip had a great match against them last year and we felt that we could lean on him tonight. And Philip came through big for us.”

Whenever the 6-foot, 2-inch, returning all-state attacker from a year ago touched the ball Tuesday, it was almost always destined for the floor — be it on his booming serve, his motor-charged kills or his devastating block. The Royals had no answer for him.

“As soon as I got back there (at the service line), I just felt really comfortable,” White said. “I just did my thing.”

While the final score would indicate otherwise, the first two games were evenly matched early on.

Momentum swing: A big swing in momentum fell in Northeastern’s favor with the Bobcats ahead 9-6 in Game 1. A ball that was initially ruled in on a Redeemer block was reversed. So instead of serving down 9-7, the Royals were again on the receive, but behind by a 10-6 margin.

They never recovered. Northeastern won 15 of the final 22 points to polish off a Game 1 victory.

In Game 2, the Royals hung tight, actually taking a couple of early leads. But with the score squared at 6-6, the Bobcats finished with a 19-8 run to go up 2-0.

Those early stalemates were not exactly what White was expecting coming into the showdown.

“I wasn’t expecting a really close match in the beginning,” White said. “I thought we were going to get out to a really good start. I thought that we would just go on a really long (run), but we didn’t.”

Seniors go for three-peat: Now White and his fellow seniors — Matt Thornton, Nic Destevens, Ty Faulkner, Brent Williams and Sam Moore — will attempt to end their high school careers in grand fashion. Despite the pressures of defending back-to-back state titles, White feels no more pressure on the seniors than any of the team’s other players.

And that’s a feeling that has become familiar ever since the team’s dominating run began two seasons ago.

“This means a lot,” he said. “I’ve always said that, like last year and the year before, that we all do it for our seniors. And this year the guys are all saying the same thing as I said. It’s nice that they have our backs during our senior year so we can just go out there and play our game.”

Rematch: When White and company step on the court Saturday for the 11 a.m. showdown with Saegertown, it will be a rematch of a contest that began the season way back in March. The Bobcats were able to claim a 25-19, 25-20, 25-21 victory over the Panthers on their home court. This time the stakes will be a bit bigger.

“We had our eye on Saegertown early,” Wilson said. “We knew that after that first match of the year that (a rematch) could possibly be coming to a head here.”

Statistics: White (14 kills, five aces, three blocks, two digs), Matt Schaeffer (34 assists, three blocks), Reese Devilbiss (nine kills, three aces, three blocks), Brandon Arentz (seven kills, four digs, one block), Thornton (five kills, three blocks) and Jeff Reynolds (three kills, three blocks) led the way statistically for the Bobcats.

— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at



Northeastern’s Reese Devilbiss has verbally committed to play in college at Ohio State.

Northeastern’s Reese Devilbiss has verbally committed to play in college at Ohio State. (JOHN A. PAVONCELLO —

Northeastern’s Reese Devilbiss will be playing for his country this summer in South America.

Northeastern’s Reese Devilbiss will be playing for his country this summer in South America. (JOHN A. PAVONCELLO —

A singular conversation in Dallas, Texas, altered the outlook that Reese Devilbiss had on his volleyball career.

It was at a national tournament and Devilbiss had just completed eighth grade. Northeastern boys’ volleyball varsity coach Matt Wilson sat him down and the two discussed the sky-high limits to the youngster’s game. While in Dallas, he would be playing in front of college scouts, a task intimidating enough for juniors and seniors in high school, let alone for someone who was just out of intermediate school.

The message between coach and player was a clear one: “Just play your best and do what you do and you can be pretty successful at that,” Wilson told Devilbiss.

In essence, before Devilbiss even played one point as a high schooler for the Bobcats’ varsity squad, talk about his playing career after high school was already in motion. That moment in his life perfectly sums up his volleyball career up to now — one that started late, but instantly exploded, much like the punishing kills he’s become known for.

“That’s when I knew and I was like: ‘Oh, jeez, college,'” Devilbiss said. “I wasn’t even planning about it at that point. I wasn’t thinking, but that’s when I knew that something was probably going to happen.”

A late start: Basketball and soccer just didn’t cut it for Devilbiss.

Growing up, those were his go-to sports, but he could never see himself truly delving into either one passionately. Volleyball quickly took over his life.

Devilbiss picked up the sport as a seventh grader and instantly fell in love with the game. It would’ve been hard not to, considering it came to him so naturally.

“When I started playing volleyball, I was hooked on it and just wanted to do that,” he said. “And ever since then, I loved it and I just knew I wanted to play at the highest level.”

From there, time would be the only thing that could hold him back.

By the time Devilbiss reached high school, the impact he had on the game was noticeable. As an outside hitter, he helped Northeastern continue the school’s impressive history of PIAA state tournament success, leading it to a Class AA state title in 2013 as a freshman and then again in 2014, as a sophomore — the fourth and fifth state titles in program history.

Recruitment: Along the way, Wilson’s prediction for Devilbiss’ future came to fruition. It didn’t take long for schools, both near and far, to show interest in Devilbiss as a sophomore.

Reese Devilbiss, seen here slapping hands with his teammates before a match, has helped Northeastern win back-to-back PIAA Class AA state titles. The

Reese Devilbiss, seen here slapping hands with his teammates before a match, has helped Northeastern win back-to-back PIAA Class AA state titles. The junior is hoping to lead the Bobcats to a third straight state crown this week. (JOHN A. PAVONCELLO —

Institutions such as Pepperdine University and UCLA sent him recruiting letters, but the distance played a major impact in him turning down two of the nation’s premier programs. However, Ohio State and Penn State also made his final cut and each represented closer alternatives than the two West Coast schools. Ultimately, the decision was up to Devilbiss, but each school presented attractive options.

On one side, Happy Valley was closest to home and also represented a program that made the NCAA Tournament every year since 1999. The prestige of the Nittany Lions was tempting. To make matters more difficult for Devilbiss, his former teammate, Luke Braswell, was trying to convince Devilbiss to join him at PSU in a couple of years.

On paper, the Buckeyes seemed to have little hope of landing Devilbiss, being farther away from home and mired in mediocrity during his recruiting process. But, from early on, Wilson was the one person who constantly talked to Devilbiss about playing volleyball in college and it was Wilson who had direct ties to the OSU program. Wilson played for the Buckeyes from 1992-95 under longtime, and current, head coach Pete Hanson.

“My hand in (his recruitment) was just simply making him fully aware that it’s about much more than just the sport of volleyball,” Wilson said. “That, at the end of this, you’re left with a degree and a quality degree, and fortunately for him, the schools that were pursuing him were all fantastic options, so he really didn’t have a single bad option.”

Northeastern’s Reese Devilbiss, right, is regarded by many as the top high school boys’ volleyball player in Pennsylvania.

Northeastern’s Reese Devilbiss, right, is regarded by many as the top high school boys’ volleyball player in Pennsylvania. (BILL KALINA —

In the span of four years, Devilbiss went from volleyball beginner to being a top recruit for many premier programs. Fortunately, he had a strong inner circle to help him make the best decision for himself. Along with Wilson, his parents, Andy and Kristen, were by his side, guiding him through the whirlwind of emotions that come along with being a college recruit at only 16 years old.

“It’s his decision,” his father, Andy, said. “But, he’s going to school to be a student and play volleyball along the way. And that’s great, but the decision is up to him.”

The 6-foot, 2-inch Devilbiss did what was best for him and followed his heart and verbally committed to Ohio State back in the fall. Unable to make it official by signing his letter of intent until next November, he’ll sit on his verbal commitment for more than a year, feeling confident that he’s making the right decision.

“When I went to Ohio State, I was just blown away by everything there,” he said. “The academics are great, the campus is beautiful. It’s just the type of place I want to live in for the next four years of my life.”

A national phenom: Ken Shibuya was first introduced to Devilbiss last summer in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

As an associate head coach for Stanford University’s men’s volleyball team, Shibuya has seen his fair share of top-notch high school athletes flow through the Palo Alto campus. So when he first caught glimpse of Devilbiss playing in the High Performance Championships, he knew that the rising junior was something special.

The two met, spoke and, from there, the spark was lit. Devilbiss was invited out to Poway, California, over this past Christmas break to participate in the Boys’ Youth Volleyball Camp. The five-day tryout pitted many of the nation’s top high school players against each other for the right to be named to this upcoming summer’s Boys’ Youth National team.

Despite being one of the youngest players invited and competing against boys set to graduate in a few months and go off to star for their college programs, Devilbiss shined enough to be named to this summer’s squad. When the team embarks to Argentina for the World Championships in a couple months, Devilbiss will be the youngest member on the team and the only one who won’t go off to college next year, with his senior year still awaiting him.

“I was just like: ‘USA? Whoa, that’s pretty cool,'” he said. “It was a great feeling. I put in all this hard work and now I finally get to do something amazing and I was just ecstatic about it.”

Establishing his legacy: As Devilbiss lounges around in his socks after the Bobcats’ final practice the evening before their first round match of the state tournament early last week, he doesn’t give off the perception of a teenager overcome with pressure. He’s not thinking about his upcoming summer plans that will take him to South America or life after high school. That’s all been put on hold.

At this moment, the sole focus for Devilbiss is on guiding his Northeastern squad through the PIAA state tournament as it strives to defend its back-to-back state crowns.

So far this season, the Bobcats have failed to drop a game, dispatching each and every opponent they’ve faced in the fewest games necessary. While the team is stacked with talent at every position, every time out, it knows that it’ll get its opponent’s very best. And that’s when Devilbiss excels.

“He doesn’t get rattled,” Wilson said. “And to have a player of his caliber who really can’t get shook, doesn’t get rattled, that doesn’t show up on a stat sheet, but it does show up in the win column because we know that he is that ballast and he keeps us upright.”

But, even Devilbiss, a player full of both individual and team accolades, can find ways to continuously elevate his game.

On one particular night, during Northeastern’s District 3 semifinal match against Cocalico, Devilbiss single-handedly took over a game. In an almost robotic fashion, Devilbiss steadily delivered hard, unreturnable serves to his opponents. In an awe-inspring manner, Devilbiss served out 13 straight points for the Bobcats, several of which were aces, for a new career high.

It’s in moments such as that, when his brilliance takes over the moment, that you can’t help but get caught up in what’s taking place. But, it’s also in moments such as that, when you would expect even Devilbiss to step back and admire his own astounding play, that he refuses to do that. To him, it’s what he’s expected to do, helping his team any way possible.

From the moment he first discussed playing volleyball in college as a 14 year old, to being touted as the best high school player in Pennsylvania, to committing to college as a junior and now preparing to represent his country, Devilbiss’ playing career has been in fast forward.

Northeastern entered this year’s state tournament as an overwhelming favorite to win its third straight championship, just another way in which Devilbiss’ volleyball career is so atypical.

He’s expected to lead the Bobcats, all while being the focus of every opposing team’s game plan. Volleyball has become almost a full-time job for Devilbiss. Between all the practices, the travel and year-round matches, volleyball never ends for him.

Despite each serve, spike or block carrying more pressure than for most players his age, it’s also where he’s happiest, fully aware of how drastically his life changed the moment he put down the basketball and soccer ball and picked up a volleyball.

“I never thought it would amount to this much,” he said in his stoic manner that is evident in how he approaches everything about his volleyball career.

“I’m just so grateful that we could all do this and it’ll make high school the best time of my life.”

— Reach Patrick Strohecker at


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