Archive for the ‘Boys’ Volleyball’ Category


The college recruiting process can sometimes get a bit burdensome for high-caliber athletes.

With numerous coaches calling, emailing and texting at seemingly all hours of the day and night, it can be trying to keep track of it all.

Such was the case for Northeastern junior Reese Devilbiss. A critical part in two PIAA Class AA state boys’ volleyball championship teams with the Bobcats, college coaches from around the country wanted the talented outside hitter to join their programs.

But Devilbiss wasn’t exactly enamored with all of the attention he was getting. So, shortly after coaches were able to contact him back on Sept. 4, the 6-foot, 1-inch Bobcat standout quickly narrowed his search to two schools — Penn State and Ohio State.

While there was a draw to Happy Valley, with former teammate and good friend Luke Braswell set to attend Penn State next year, Devilbiss followed his heart to the Buckeye state. He recently gave a verbal commitment to Ohio State.

“I wanted to go to a bigger school,” said Devilbiss, who noted that many NCAA Division I and Division II schools were hot on his trail. “And I knew that as soon as I walked on campus there I was like, ‘this is where I want to spend the next four years of my life.’ So it was kind of a gut feeling. It just felt right when I was there.”

Devilbiss and Braswell certainly have a built a strong bond, on and off the court, but their decisions to go to rival schools has created no lingering ill will.

In fact, the two seemed to have stepped up their friendly back-and-forth banter because of it.

“When I finally told Luke my decision he was a little upset,” Devilbiss said. “But we’ve been trash talking each other in the gym when we get together. If he messes up a set I say ‘oh, it must be that Nittany Lion technique.’ But we’re just having fun with it. We’re both excited.”

One big reason that Devilbiss liked Ohio State was the Buckeyes’ willingness to recruit him as an outside hitter. Most other schools had the multi-talented standout pegged as either a defensive specialist or libero because of his size.

“Yeah, some of the guys are 6-8 or 6-9,” Devilbiss said of college outside hitters. “And I know that Penn State just picked up a guy that is 6-foot-11, which is pretty big. But I know what I’m capable of and I think I’ll be able to handle it well once I get up there and start practicing with those guys.”

Following in Wilson’s footsteps: The news that Devilbiss will be going to Columbus means that he’ll follow in the footsteps of Bobcat coach Matt Wilson. Wilson was an all-state standout at Northeastern who went on to play at Ohio State in the early 1990s.

Wilson, however, didn’t try to influence Devilbiss’ decision.

“He didn’t want me to feel pressured,” Devilbiss said. “I told him that I didn’t feel like I needed to take any more visits because (Ohio State) is where I wanted to be. But he pushed me to visit other schools so that I knew it was right and that I wouldn’t make my decision and go ‘oh, is this the right decision?’ So he helped give me advice, but he just wanted me to do what makes me happy and what I think feels right.”

With the pressure of making his decision now behind him, Devilbiss is looking forward to helping Wilson and company continue their winning ways.

“We’re looking for that three-peat,” he said. “That’s what we’re striving for.”

— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at



Central York grad Royce Clemens was one of 36 players nationally to earn All-America recognition from Volleyball Magazine.

Central York grad Royce Clemens was one of 36 players nationally to earn All-America recognition from Volleyball Magazine. (JOHN A. PAVONCELLO —

Winning awards is nothing new to Central York High School graduate Royce Clemens.

The latest honor, however, may be the most significant one of the bunch.

A two-time PIAA Class AAA All-State player for the Panthers, Clemens was recognized in the latest edition of Volleyball Magazine as a 2014 Boys’ Volleyball High School All-American.

The magazine grouped players into three segments — first team, second team and honorable mention. There were 36 players in total — 12 in each segment — honored across the nation, with the vast majority of players hailing from California (16).

A Penn State recruit, Clemens was named as an honorable mention selection after leading the Panthers to the PIAA Class AAA state title a month ago. He is just one of two players from Pennsylvania — the other being fellow Nittany Lion recruit Lee Smith from Ambridge — to make the list.

“I am very happy for Royce,” Central coach Brad Livingston said. “Personally, my opinion is that Royce was so honored because of the accomplishments of a very talented and high-functioning team. The fact that our team went undefeated in best-of-five matches, only losing a single set all year, with everything else being a sweep. The fact that we were able to win the PIAA Class AAA championship. And the fact that we gained national recognition due to our on-court achievements all paved the way for Royce to receive that honor.”

Clemens’ ability to play many different positions proved to be invaluable. It was that versatility that attracted Penn State, one of the premier men’s volleyball programs in the country, to court him as a libero.

“There are two main memories from 2014,” Livingston said. “The first is the look on Royce’s face when I asked him to be the fifth offensive option while focusing on being our No. 1 passer. The look on Royce’s face was priceless. ‘Fifth option?’ he thought I was insane.

“The second memory is the sheer joy on his face as we won match after match on the road to the PIAA AAA title. It was clear that Royce was enjoying the ride.”

Clemens joins an elite list of former Central York standouts to be named as All-Americans in volleyball. Only four others – Rob Keller, Jeff Johnson, Jeff Kristick and David Moler – have won such recognition.

“It’s a huge deal and a great honor for both Lee and Royce,” Livingston said. “When Volleyball Magazine recognizes you as one of the best in the nation it is a very big deal.”

Panthers ranked No. 2 in nation: While Clemens’ honor is certainly high praise, so too was the entire squad earning the No. 2 ranking in the nation from MaxPreps. Just don’t expect a legendary coach, such as Livingston, to bounce off the walls with excitement about something that is purely opinion.

“As I’ve stated before I think the rankings are fun,” Livingston said. “Anything that promotes and brings attention to volleyball is good. This is such a great game, it’s a shame that more kids don’t pick it up early. That’s the deal with California — early involvement, the beach game, top-notch club programs. Lots of teams, lots of players and lots of opportunities to play.”

Livingston, who led the program to its sixth PIAA title in June, has a better idea of a way to determine national rankings.

“Are we the No. 2 team in the nation?” he said. “Probably not, but let’s play. Perhaps someday we’ll get a sponsor that will provide funding to bring (No. 1 ranked) Huntingdon Beach (California) to the Koller Classic. Let’s play. One of the best things about our volleyball program at Central York is the opportunity our kids get to see the best players in the state while competing against Pennsylvania’s best. It is always valuable to see how high the bar is set so you know how hard you have to work.”

Central wasn’t the only York-area team to crack the MaxPreps Top 25 rankings. PIAA Class AA champion Northeastern checked in at No. 17 after winning that program’s fifth state crown.

— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at



It’s an adage in the world of sports that you never want to hit your peak too soon.

That saying was followed to a “T” by the Northeastern boys’ volleyball program this year.

After a couple of disheartening setbacks against PIAA Class AAA champion Central York in the regular-season finale and the league playoff final, the Bobcats started to get hot. And no one, not even No. 1 ranked Ambridge, could cool them off.

The scorching run that Coach Matt Wilson’s club went on through the District 3 and then the PIAA Class AA brackets culminated in back-to-back titles for the Manchester school.

It also yielded a record-tying five all-state players (tied with the 2010 club), as voted on by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association. That came from a total of 24 AA honorees. Seniors Luke Braswell and Matt Hollinger were joined by junior Philip White and sophomores Brandon Arentz and Reese Devilbiss on the squad. York Suburban’s Jacob Kauffman was also named to the team.

“I thought those five guys (to be honored) was really well deserved,” Wilson said. “One of the big keys to our success was those five guys carrying a really big load for us. And you could probably make a case for Casey (Winand) as well. But I think they got it right.”

Braswell: Braswell, a three-time all-state award winner, highlighted the contingent. Despite missing a majority of the season, the Penn State-bound setter returned and led his team on an epic run to close out his great high school career.

“Well, what else can I say about Luke?” Wilson said. “From a high school perspective, in my opinion, I think he’s leaving Northeastern High School as the best setter that I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching or being around. And probably one of the best setters to ever come out of York County. Down the stretch, late in the season, he just played at another level. It was impressive to watch. He’ll be missed.”

Devilbiss: One of Braswell’s favorite targets the past two years has been Devilbiss, who led the team in kills. Just a sophomore, Devilbiss was a threat from anywhere on the court to put the ball on the ground.

His defense, one area typically overlooked for an outside, quickly caught up to his powerful spikes in terms of reliability. Now a two-time all-state honoree, he finished with 487 kills, 69 blocks and 55 aces for the season.

Hollinger: Hollinger was a bit of a jack-of-all-trades for Wilson over his career. He’s played defensive specialist, libero and outside hitter throughout his career and excelled in each spot. If he possessed the size of Braswell he very well could have been another NCAA Division I-bound player.

“If he was 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-4 he could probably be in contention to be considered as one of the best volleyball players throughout the state,” Wilson said. “He has great feet and he’s a great athlete. Just small in stature (5-foot-10), but large in terms of what he’s capable of doing. I’m real thrilled for Matt and he’s worked hard to get where he’s at.”

White: At the onset of the season it was White who was pinpointed by his coach as the balance for the club. If White could step up and help fill the void left by Stephen Braswell’s graduation from a year earlier, the Bobcats could repeat history according to Wilson.

“Coming into the year I said the biggest question mark we had was Philip White,” Wilson said. “And I’ll be honest, we had some highs and lows with him this year. But he stuck through it, he persevered and went through some tough matches and some tough nights with me. But I will sit here and tell you that one of the main reasons we were able to turn and get on a roll was Philip’s level of play down the stretch. He became an extremely dominant offensive player for us and, at the end, also a solid blocker, which was an area he had been struggling in.”

Arentz: The most impressive of the five all-state players to make the team may have been Arentz, who earned a spot as a libero even though he didn’t start out the season at that position.

“Brandon came on and was playing another position earlier on,” Wilson said. “But down the stretch, his passing and defensive effort just really skyrocketed the last three weeks. I think sometimes its just good timing when you get seen by people. And there’s no doubt that when people are watching you in the state championship match and you’re sticking out at the libero spot, he picked a very good time to get himself noticed. I’m very happy for him.”

Kauffman: Wilson was one of Kauffman’s biggest fans, saying he possessed “one of the most lethal jumpers in the state.”

A standout hitter, Kauffman consistently packed the stat sheet for the Trojans, who finished fourth in both the District 3-AA Tournament and in the York-Adams League.

“Jake is a great player and we knew we had to try to contain him,” Central York’s Dylan Hose said earlier this season. “We always wanted to get two blockers up on him.”

Kauffman was a four-year starter for Suburban.

— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at


District 2

Mike Conlon, Jr., S, Holy Redeemer, Mike Prociak, Sr., M, Holy Redeemer.

District 3

Alex Myers, Sr., M, Garden Spot. Micah Hostetter, Sr., S, Garden Spot. Brandon Arentz, Soph., LIB, Northeastern. Philip White, Jr., O, Northeastern. Luke Braswell, Sr., S, Northeastern. Reese Devilbiss, Soph., O, Northeastern. Matt Hollinger, Sr., O, Northeastern. Jacob Kauffman, Sr., O, York Suburban.

District 6

Ben Kasun, Sr., S, Bishop Guilfoyle.

District 7

Aaron Mueller, Sr., S, Ambridge. Lee Smith, Sr., O, Ambridge. Brandon Buck, Sr., O, Ambridge. Dan Zajac, Sr., O, Ambridge. Jon Knab, Sr., M, Beaver C.C. Matt Vasinko, Sr., O, Derry. Ethan Huston, Sr., O, Derry. Izaak Fulmer-Moffat, Sr., LIB, Derry. Shaughn McDonald, Sr., O, Our Lady of Secred Heart.

District 10

Nick Dickson, Sr., O, Cochranton. Logan Herzberger, Sr., O, Cochranton. Alex Barclay, Jr., O. Saegertown. Brendon Barclay, Jr., O, Saegertown.



As a lot of teams found out this season, there was no lack of talent on the 2014 Central York boys’ volleyball team.

From the front line to the back row, the Panthers were simply stacked.

So it’s not much of a surprise that the PIAA state champions were well recognized when the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association Class AAA All-State Team was released on Thursday.

What may be surprising, however, is the sheer number of Central York players that were honored. A whopping five Panthers were among the 34 all-state players.

Heading the list were senior setter Dylan Hose and senior outside hitter Royce Clemens. Those two were joined by juniors Jason Gardner, Jeremiah Dadeboe and Landon Shorts.

“”For any coach to pick up the postseason honors and sees three of his players on the all-state list is blessed,” Livingston said. “And (having five players honored), I truly am blessed.”

Having five all-state players is certainly high praise for any program. But for Livingston, who is now a two-time state title coach, it was his team’s make-up that defined it as a championship-caliber squad.

“What was really remarkable thing about this team is the fact that we had 11 kids who played virtually every set of importance all year long,” he said. “I didn’t have to call substitutions or anything. And we were balanced. I think by far it was the most balanced team I’ve ever had. I don’t think we’ve ever gone 11 people deep where everybody embraced their roles and got along without any jealousy on the court.”

Clemens, who is also a two-time state champ, and Hose played critical parts in their team’s success, which also included York-Adams League regular-season and tournament crowns, as well as a District 3-AAA title. Clemens was pivotal with his ability to serve-receive effectively and pass the ball to Hose, who had to decide where to distribute the ball for an attack.

Replacing those two will be no easy chore, considering what each meant to the club.

“(The challenge) will be in how we replace Royce’s passing, which was so important to the things we were able to do offensively,” Livingston said. “He tried to pass as many balls as possible. And Dylan is a spectacular setter. I’m not going to go on ad nauseam about him, but how do you replace him? I don’t know. It might take two.”

Fortunately for the veteran coach, he might find the answer to that problem in another of his all-state players — Shorts. In his first full year playing varsity, Shorts led the Panthers in points per game (kills, blocks plus aces) at just over 4.2, which is true representation of how versatile he is.

“Our backup setter was really Landon,” Livingston said. “And you may have noticed that whenever Dylan took the first ball, we tried to get Landon to take (the set) as much as possible. And if we got into a situation where, God forbid, something would have happened to Dylan, Landon would have been the guy. That’s how versatile and talented he is.”

While Shorts led the team in scoring, Dadeboe and Gardner finished second and third, respectively.

“Jerry averages like four points a game and Jason is at 3.85,” Livingston said. “Jason is a dynamic jumper and he is a shot maker. And during the run in the state tournament, the fact that other teams were putting middle blockers up on him was kind of irrelevant. He was just making shots all around them.”

While Dadeboe’s athleticism clearly jumps out at everyone who watches him, Dadeboe rarely was able to utilize his jump-serve during the season. The same goes for Gardner, and both juniors will likely be called upon to grow their games come next season.

— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at


PIAA District I

Christian Rupert, Sr. (M), C.B. West

Matt Hennigan, Sr. (S), C.B. West

Joel Klapper, Sr. (O), C.B. West

Ryan Jamison, Sr. (O), Neshaminy

Chase Fullen, Sr. (S), Neshaminy

Kolby Smith, Sr. (O), Pennridge

Alex Vellner, Sr. (O), Pennridge

Jeff Yasalonis, Sr. (S), Pennsbury

PIAA District 3

Jacob Kerschner, Jr. (S), Central Dauphin

Mahlon Bender, Sr. (M), Central Dauphin

Dylan Hose, Sr. (S), Central York

Royce Clemens, Sr. (O), Central York

Jason Gardner, Jr. (M/O), Central York

Jeremiah Dadaboe, Jr. (O), Central York

Landon Shorts, Jr. (O), Central York

Keith Kegerris, Sr. (M/O), Chambersburg

Michael Fisher, Jr. (O), Cumberland Valley

Ben Nauman, Jr. (OH), Hempfield

Chris Booth, Jr. (O), Hempfield

PIAA District VI

Andrew Groves, Sr. (M/O), State College

PIAA District VII

Matt Huey, Sr. (M), Butler

Garrett Kollar, Sr. (M), Latrobe

Antonios Balouris, Sr. (S), North Allegheny

David Haus, Sr. (O), Northc Allegheny

Mitch Higgins, Sr. (O), North Allegheny

Brendan Brown, Sr. (M), North Allegheny

Noah Bostick, Sr. (O), North Hills

Kevin Zabelsky, Sr. (O), Norwin

Jaysen Zaleski, Jr. (M), Fox Chapel

PIAA District XI

Jake Reynolds, Sr. (S), Emmaus

Mike Holihan, Sr. (S/M), Northampton

Tyler Phifer, Sr. (M), Parkland

Chris Schweikert, Sr. (LIB), Parkland

PIAA District XII

Dan Paraskevov, Sr. (O), George Washington



In case you haven’t heard by now (you probably have), the Central York and Northeastern boys’ volleyball teams departed State College on Saturday with PIAA state gold medals.

That concluded runs by the most successful sports programs to come out of the York-Adams League this spring season, following a pair of District 3 titles between the teams, and Central beating Northeastern in the league tournament title game. The Panthers and Bobcats also finished one-two in the regular-season league standings.

It also brought an end to the spring sports season.

Well, for York-Adams League teams, anyway. The state tournaments for baseball and softball wrap up this week.

So, what better time than now to have a brief look back on what league teams did across all spring sports? To make things a bit easier, I thought it might be a good idea on doing a recap by the numbers. On second thought, maybe this wrap-up will make your brain hurt, if you, like me, would opt for banging your head against a wall instead of doing math.

State qualifiers: We’ll go in reverse order here, from the state tournament all the way back to division title winners. First up, we have state qualifiers. Boys’ volleyball led the way with three (the aforementioned Central York and Northeastern, along with York Suburban), followed by a pair of baseball teams (York Catholic and Northeastern, the latter reaching the state quarterfinals) and one softball team (Delone Catholic, which reached the quarterfinals as well).

Districts: The Central York and Northeastern boys’ volleyball teams each won District 3 gold. The York Catholic baseball and Delone Catholic softball teams were district runners-up. As far as district qualifiers, the sport of softball led the way with 10, followed by baseball (eight), volleyball (six), boys’ lacrosse (five), girls’ lacrosse (four) and boys’ tennis (three).

League: Dallastown won league tournaments in softball and boys’ lacrosse. The remaining three league tournaments had different winners: Central York in boys’ volleyball, Spring Grove in baseball and York Catholic in girls’ lacrosse.

Across all sports, six schools won multiple division titles in the York-Adams League, led by South Western (girls’ lacrosse, boys’ tennis, girls’ track) and Delone Catholic (baseball, softball, boys’ track) each winning three. Central York (boys’ volleyball, softball), West York (baseball, boys’ lacrosse), Susquehannock (baseball, softball) and Kennard-Dale (softball, girls’ lacrosse) each won a pair of division crowns. Spring Grove (baseball), Dallastown (boys’ lacrosse), York Catholic (boys’ tennis), Red Lion (boys’ track), York Suburban (boys’ track), Dover (girls’ track) and Biglerville (girls’ track) each had one division title.

Now for a quick recap.

Oh, never mind. I have to go find the nearest wall. Then figure out what to do until Aug. 11, the start date of fall sports practice.

— Reach John Walk at



To say that life has been a bit of a whirlwind for Central York’s Royce Clemens over the past few days may be an understatement.

With his graduation, a PIAA Class AAA boys’ volleyball state title and the various parties to celebrate both accomplishments all coming together at the same time, a lesser-prepared person may feel overwhelmed. But not Clemens, who has lived a busy life during his four years as a Panther. Whether he was playing or practicing for soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter or volleyball in the spring and summer, dealing with a hectic schedule has been something that Clemens has been able to adapt to over his high school career.

Those experiences should be very helpful come this fall, when Clemens begins his college career at Penn State University. The two-time state champ figures to redshirt a year before sliding into the role of libero for the highly successful Nittany Lion men’s volleyball squad.

We caught up with Clemens, who became the first Central athlete to lead each of his three different sports team to the state playoffs in the same year, for this edition of Sports Q&A.

Q: What has the last 24 hours been like?

A: “It’s been somewhat more emotional than I thought it would be. As the game approached, I didn’t think I’d get too emotional because everyone on our team thought that we would be in the final game of the season and we all expected to win. But it’s starting to sink in now that my high school career is over and I’m no longer going to be a high school athlete.”

Q: How satisfying was Saturday’s victory?

A: “Oh, it was extremely satisfying. It was a good way to go out. And it’s extra satisfying because of all the hard work to get that and just knowing how much time and effort was put into that.”

Q: What’s the reaction from your family and friends been like?

A: “Everyone has felt good for me because they know all the sacrifices that I had to make throughout the year to be in the gym or wherever we had to be. They were all just so happy for me that I had the opportunity to play in the state playoffs and be a state champion.”

Q: Have you thought about the tradition of the program and the legacy that you and this team will leave behind?

A: “Yeah. Bruce and Barb Koller ran the program for Central for a long time and Coach (Brad) Livingston was an assistant coach under them and he learned from them before he took over. And it’s not easy to play for such a tradition-rich program that has produced so many division, league, district and state championships. So for Coach Livingston and Coach (Todd) Goodling to say that we’re one of the best Central teams they’ve ever seen, that’s (high praise).”

Q: How special was your team this year and what made them so special?

A: “There was a lot of similarities that remind me of the team that won in 2011. This team was obviously pretty special because of the chemistry that we all had. We’re all a good group of guys and we’re all friends with each other, but in the gym it’s extremely competitive. Since every guy can play like every position it’s always real competitive. … a lot of trash-talking, and that just made it so much more fun to be in the gym.”

Q: Did you have any discussions with any of the other guys that are headed to Penn State to play volleyball?

A: “Well I think Luke (Braswell) is going to HACC for a year and then coming up and Lee (Smith) from Ambridge is going up right away. And there’s a kid from Colorado who is going up right away. So I’ve talked to Lee and the player from Colorado and I’m just really excited to be able to go up there with those guys.”

Q: What will you take away most from your high school career?

A: “I think it’s just the persistence and all the effort and hard work that it takes to pay off in the end. If you put the work in, and you put good work in and not just half-effort, that you will see results.”

Q: What do you foresee for the Central York boys’ volleyball team next year?

A: “I think they have a lot of potential. Landon (Shorts), Jason (Gardner) and Jerry (Dadeboe) are all pretty great players and I think they can only keep improving. Trevor (Holderegger) was the JV setter and he’s a good athlete and Carter (Luckenbaugh) plays all the same sports I do and he’s a good athlete. So I think if those guys all get in the gym and do the same things that we did (this year), I think they will see good results.”

Q: Have you had any time to reflect on your personal legacy — the first Central athlete to lead his team to the PIAA playoffs in a team sport in all three sporting seasons — and what are your thoughts about it?

A: “Yeah. It is something that I have thought about and it’s just amazing. To make it to states in three different sports and three sports that are all totally different. … the only thing I can say is that I wouldn’t have been able to do that without my teammates. I’ve been so lucky to have a great group of guys that listens to our coaches and are hungry to win. And that hasn’t always been something that has been present in past years, but I think that’s something that has really taken a turn now. And it’s just amazing. I’m so incredibly blessed that I’ve had the opportunity to experience that.”

— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at



Northeastern’s Luke Braswell, right, helped the Bobcats win back-to-back Class AA state championships in boys’ volleyball.

Northeastern’s Luke Braswell, right, helped the Bobcats win back-to-back Class AA state championships in boys’ volleyball. (YORK DISPATCH FILE PHOTO)

The setter in volleyball is often compared to the quarterback in football.

More often than not, a team’s success hinges on that player making all the plays at all the right times.

So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that when Northeastern boys’ volleyball setter Luke Braswell was forced to miss a large part of the regular season with a shin ailment, the Bobcats were not the same team. And neither was Braswell, a seemingly upbeat and energetic character on the volleyball court. Secretly, however, the team’s captain was battling not just the injury, but also a bout of depression that developed because he wasn’t able to play the sport he loves.

The 6-foot, 5-inch Braswell, however, is not one to give up so easily. Despite feeling “awful,” the Bobcat captain knew that he had to be a role model for his teammates. So he continued to train hard in an effort to get back on the court and help his team when it needed him the most.

That time came just before the start of the District 3 playoffs, and Northeastern instantly became a much better club. In fact, no other Class AA team in the state was better, even Ambridge, the team that was on top the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association AA poll for the vast majority of the season.

The Bobcats proved that emphatically over the weekend by sweeping the Bridgers, 25-20, 25-15, 25-14, en route to back-to-back PIAA championships.

On the game’s final point, it was Braswell (32 assists) who did the honors, dumping a set attempt behind the Ambridge block and onto the floor to close out the victory.

We caught up with Braswell, who plans to eventually take over the setter position for the highly-successful Penn State men’s volleyball team, for this edition of Sports Q&A.

Q: What has the last 48 hours been like?

A: “It’s been great. I went out with the team for breakfast (Sunday) morning and we went back and played some doubles (two-man volleyball) and stuff. So it’s been really exciting.”

Q: How satisfying was Saturday’s victory?

A: “That was just awesome. We worked hard for the first one and then to come back and do it again the next year is insane. To go out winning back-to-back (titles) is just an amazing feeling. Definitely a special way to end my high school career.”

Q: I talked with Coach (Matt) Wilson about the final point of the match and he said you tried it the year before, it didn’t work, and he told you never to do that again. So can you walk me through that point and what you saw out there to make it work?

A: “Yeah. Last year I tried that and it didn’t work. But (Saturday) it didn’t even cross my mind that it wouldn’t work. They just passed the ball to me, I set it over the net, it hit the floor and we all went crazy.”

Q: What’s the reaction from your family and friends been like?

A: “They’ve all been excited for me and very happy for me. They’re ecstatic about us winning states. It’s just been awesome. I have a really great family that’s been there to support me and my friends have been the same way. When I looked at my phone after the match I had 23 text messages and throughout the day I just kept getting more and more. And it’s pretty cool to see that and see how much support that I really have.”

Q: I noticed that your brother, Stephen, who won the title with you last year when he was a senior, was at the game, which must have been neat, right?

A: “Yeah, it’s always pretty cool to have him around. Stephen is a great player and I played with him last year so to have him be there is just really cool.”

Q: What play do you remember most from Saturday?

A: “It was the end of Game 1. It was a really long rally, like 46 seconds I think, it was just an insane rally. Both teams just kept keeping the ball alive, but then finally Reese (Devilbiss) finished it with a kill down the line. It hit off the kid’s shoulder before going out of bounds.”

Q: What was it like for you in the middle of the year when you weren’t playing due to your injury?

A: “That was awful. That was absolutely terrible. There were times when I didn’t want to come in to practice at all. I just wanted to stay at home and be miserable, but I knew that I had to keep coming in. I knew I had to do some training and other stuff so that when I came back I’d be ready to play.”

Q: Have you thought about the tradition of the program and the legacy that you and this team will leave behind?

A: “I have. Coach Wilson says that every (title) will hang in the gym forever. So it will be awesome to be able to come back in the gym in a couple of years and to look up and see what me and my team accomplished is still on that wall and that’s just awesome.”

Q: How special was your team this year and what made them so special?

A: “I think that both years we had a very special team. I would say that this year’s team was special because he had more young guys. And to play with a little less experience on the court was different, but I think the young guys stepped up a lot and made this team their own.”

Q: Was that more of a challenge to you as the team’s setter, to get everyone up to par and help to develop them?

A: “Yeah, it was difficult. At one point (Saturday) we had four or five sophomores out on the court that have never been in that situation before. And since I was in the finals last year, I knew how to react and I noticed some of the guys were a little shaky in the beginning. So I tried to calm them down a little bit, but they did it by themselves and they stepped up and played well.”

Q: So what is your time line for playing at Penn State? I heard you won’t be going up right away.

A: “Yeah. I’m going to defer a year and go to HACC to get my gen-eds (general education courses) out of the way. Then the following year, it’s to go up to Penn State for good.”

Q: What will you take away most from your high school career?

A: “Just to be a leader on the court and help my team in any way. That’s what Coach Wilson’s system emphasizes … to be a leader. So I have to know what to say at the right time and know what to do.”

Q: What do you foresee for the Northeastern boys’ volleyball team next year?

A: “I think that the sophomores will develop into great juniors. I think that they’ll have a good chance to repeat, considering everything that they did this year.”

— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at



Central York’s Anthony Savage gets the ball past a pair of Central Bucks West defenders during their PIAA Class AAA semifinal match on Tuesday. The

Central York’s Anthony Savage gets the ball past a pair of Central Bucks West defenders during their PIAA Class AAA semifinal match on Tuesday. The Panthers face North Allegheny for the state crown on Saturday. (JOHN A. PAVONCELLO —

Over the years, there has been a lot of history made by the Northeastern and Central York boys’ volleyball programs.

The Bobcats own four PIAA titles, while the Panthers have won five. Both will look to add to those totals Saturday when they participate in the state finals at Penn State University.

Northeastern will battle Ambridge in a rematch of last year’s Class AA state final starting at 11 a.m. Central York will follow with a showdown against defending Class AAA state champion North Allegheny around 1 p.m.

If both the Bobcats and Panthers prevail Saturday, it would mark the first time York-Adams League teams won both titles in the same year.

“Hopefully we can both make that dream come true,” Northeastern coach Matt Wilson said.

The following is a preview of what to look for in each match.

Class AA — Northeastern vs. Ambridge: It was only a year ago when the Bobcats downed the Bridgers in four games en route to Northeastern’s second title in four years.

It didn’t take long for both sides to envision a rematch this year, and neither side disappointed, even if Wilson was a bit skeptical about his own team’s chances.

“I think both teams could very well be back here next year if they do what they’re supposed to do,” Wilson said moments after his team won last year’s title. “I think there’s a good chance of that. I’m very certain that they’ll be back, but hopefully we can find a way to get back here again.”

Clearly the two best AA teams in the state all season long, the roles for Saturday’s contest appear to be flipped from last June. Back then it was Northeastern which was ranked No. 1, while Ambridge was No. 2 in the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association poll. This year it’s been the Bridgers atop the poll almost wire-to-wire.

Wilson knows it’s not going to be easy.

“Our serve-receive is going to be crucial,” Wilson said. “If we break down like we did against Central, quite honestly I’m not sure if we’ll be able to pull out of that tailspin. And then I think that’s followed up by our service game and our defensive effort.”

The Bridgers clearly are a motivated bunch, hoping to get a bit of revenge on the Bobcats.

“One of our goals was to make it back to the PIAA finals and bring home the state title this time,” Ambridge coach Glenn Freed was quoted as saying Tuesday. “We’re one win away from reaching that goal. The kids are looking forward to the rematch with Northeastern.”

The District 3 champs will have their hands full with standout Lee Smith. The 6-foot, 6-inch Penn State recruit excels in all facets of the game. Shutting him down is no small task.

“We’re not going to stop Lee Smith,” Wilson said. “Smith is about as good as it gets. He’s one of the top attackers in the whole country. So you’re not going to stop him, but you need to take care of the other parts of the game, and maybe slow him down a bit and make sure the other guys don’t hurt you.”

One of those “other guys” is fellow outside attacker Brandon Buck, who, like Smith, can beat you with a spike, a block or an ace.

“Both Smith and Buck present lethal-type jump serves, so they’ll bring some heat from the service line,” Wilson said. “But if we can get through their rotations without too much damage, we should be OK. And we’re fortunate that here in York to have faced a guy like Jacob Kauffman, who probably has one of the most lethal jumpers in the state. And then there’s some guys from Central. So we’ve seen some big servers in the past and typically have handled those pretty well.”

Northeastern, however, presents its own set of problems for opponents, starting with Penn State recruit and setter Luke Braswell (633 assists, 78 kills, 68 blocks). The 6-foot 5-inch senior has a knack for distributing the ball to teammates in the best possible position. He’s also a threat on defense with his blocking ability.

Outsider hitter Reese Devilbiss (471 kills, 66 blocks, 53 aces) is unquestionably Wilson’s best attacker on any given day. The sophomore is a threat from anywhere on the court to put the ball on the ground. His defense, one area typically overlooked for an outside hitter, is quickly catching up to his powerful spikes.

Both Braswell and Devilbiss were out of action when the teams squared off in the State College Tournament earlier this season. Braswell, who missed more than a month with a shin injury, and Devilbiss are pretty close to 100 percent healthy, so Wilson isn’t putting much stake into the Bridgers’ 2-1 lead over the three games they’ve played this year.

“I know they’re a little bit different, but we’re certainly much different than where we were at that point in the season,” Wilson said. “And the best-of-five is a whole different ballgame than on a tournament on a Saturday morning.”

The outcome may be determined by how well Northeastern’s second or third options perform. Players such as Philip White (265 kills, 52 blocks, 49 aces), Jeffrey Reynolds (103 kills, 69 blocks), Casey Winand (174 kills, 85 blocks) and Matt Hollinger (121 kills, 25 blocks, 58 aces) will need to come up with big points.

“Philip, Jeffrey and Casey have been coming along wonderfully these past few weeks,” Wilson said. “I also have to say that Brandon Arentz (78 digs) has done a terrific job at the libero spot for us, and Chris Lee (19 aces) and Drew Landis (12 aces) have filled in roles as well.”

The serving of Hollinger (jumper) and Lee (floater) could prove pivotal to Northeastern’s chances Saturday.

“We score a lot of points when Chris Lee serves,” Wilson said. “It’s not a lethal jumper, but it’s like a knuckleball in baseball. He’s got a float serve that is pretty nasty and he can place it almost wherever we want. And he plays first-rate defense and usually makes a very positive contribution when he’s out on the court.

“And (Hollinger) has the most lethal jump serve on our squad, followed by Reese. He’s been very consistent. He’s always had it, it’s just been a consistency issue. If he can come out and put pressure on them from the service line that will certainly help.”

Class AAA — Central York vs. North Allegheny: Entering this season, the Central York players knew they were going to be very good.

It didn’t take them long to find out just how good.

In the opening tournament of the season, the Panthers traveled to the Pittsburgh area to participate in the North Allegheny Tournament. Coach Brad Livingston’s squad dropped just one game against the host school during pool play before sweeping to the tournament championship. The victory in the final was a 25-17 triumph over the Tigers.

The result of that tournament, which featured many schools ranked in the top 10, cemented Central’s status as the No. 1 team in the state in the coaches poll.

“That was the first time we played as a high school, but we all pretty much play together as a club team,” Central senior Royce Clemens said. “We had the experience of seeing ourselves against some of the best all-star teams in the state. And ever since club ball we thought we were the real deal for our high school team. We knew we were going to be tough to stop with so many weapons. But it was at the NA Tournament that we got our first perspective of just how we compared to the other top high schools in the state.”

Central also bested NA during pool play at the Koller Classic nearly two months ago. Still, Livingston isn’t giving much credence to the positive results as an indicator for what will transpire Saturday.

“A lot of times those (tournament matches) are misleading,” he said. “Because you’re only playing to 21 points and sometimes you’re only playing one game. So we’ve played them this year, but we haven’t played them in a best-of-five match. So it’s kind of a different animal. Obviously it’s good that it gives us a chance to find out a little bit about them, but they know a little bit about us too. Other than that, it’s still going to come down to what happens on Saturday.”

North Allegheny boasts a fearsome front line that features outside hitters Mitch Higgins, David Haus and Brendan Brown. Setting them up is Antonio Balouris.

Livingston knows they will present a challenge for his battle-tested club.

“Higgins and Haus are their two go-to guys,” Livingston said. “Haus had 24 kills and Higgins had 18 (vs. Hempfield in the state semifinals) but they have a big, strong kid in the middle as well named Brendan Brown. He’s an all-state player and I know he’s going away to play college ball somewhere. He works real hard in the middle and he generates a lot of blocks for them. And I know that (their coach) is particularly happy with his setter, Antonio Balouris, who has done a good job of running their offense this year.”

Setter Dylan Hose (700 assists, 32 kills, 17 aces) heads up a Central attack that gives Hose plenty of options on any play. The Panthers boast five players with more than 100 kills on the year, led by junior Jeremiah Dadeboe’s 181. Jason Gardner is a close second with 173, while Landon Shorts (156), Clemens (149) and Alex Klunk (101) round out an impressive quartet that can terminate the ball on any given swing.

“We just have to go into the match working really hard to try to make sure we pass the ball well and play good defense,” Livingston said. “Hopefully if we are able to do those things Saturday, that will generate some offense for us so we can put enough points on the board to win.”

Winning would be special for everyone on the Central squad, but probably a little bit more for Clemens, who will continue his volleyball career next season at Penn State. Clemens won a gold medal during his freshman year and is hoping to come full circle by ending with another one as a senior.

“Going to the state finals is a great experience,” Clemens said. “It’s still kind of surreal right now. And it’s great because this has been a goal we’ve all had since the off season. Each one of my teammates have been in the gym and we’ve worked toward (this). It’s our common goal and we did everything we could to get here and be as prepared as we can be.”

NOTE: Of Central’s five state titles, three have come via victories over North Allegheny in the finals.

— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at


Following is a list of the state championships won by the Northeastern and Central York boys’ volleyball teams:

Central York

1975 vs. Haverford (2-0)

1977 vs. Penn Hills (2-1)

1982 vs. North Allegheny (2-1)

1985 vs. North Allegheny (2-1)

2011 vs. North Allegheny (3-1)


1992 vs. Emmaus (2-0)

1993 vs. North Allegheny (2-1)

2010 vs. Meadville (3-0)

2013 vs. Ambridge (3-1)



The Central York Panthers react after defeating Central Bucks West in three straight games to win the PIAA Class AAA boys’ volleyball semifinal match

The Central York Panthers react after defeating Central Bucks West in three straight games to win the PIAA Class AAA boys’ volleyball semifinal match on Tuesday. (JOHN A. PAVONCELLO —
Jeremiah Dadeboe of Central York drives the ball past Central Bucks West defender Joel Klapper on Tuesday June 3, 2014.

Jeremiah Dadeboe of Central York drives the ball past Central Bucks West defender Joel Klapper on Tuesday June 3, 2014.

WEST LAWN — Sometimes, coaches will make wild proclamations to try to get more out of their teams.

Maybe that was the case when Central Bucks West boys’ volleyball coach Todd Miller was quoted as calling District 3-AAA champion Central York “the second- or third-best” team in the state.

As you can imagine, that comment didn’t sit too well with Coach Brad Livingston’s crew.

But that wasn’t all.

Word also got out that the Bucks were looking forward to “finally” getting a chance to play the Panthers, who have been ranked No. 1 in the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association AAA poll all season. C.B. West was ranked No. 2 in that same poll last week.

Perhaps Livingston summed up that request best.

“Be careful what you wish for,” he said.

No kidding.

Despite jumping out to early leads in both Game 1 and Game 3, the Bucks were unable to keep up with the York-Adams League champs. In the end it was the Panthers who walked out of Wilson High School with an impressive 25-23, 25-18, 25-21 triumph.

Central York will now move on to the PIAA Class AAA title contest at Penn State University at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Panthers will face defending PIAA Class AAA champion North Allegheny, which knocked off Hempfield, 22-25, 23-25, 25-23, 25-14, 15-10, in the other semifinal.

“Coach (Livingston) found one of the statements that (Miller) made saying that ‘it would be nice to play the second- or third-best team in the state,'” Central senior Royce Clemens said. “We like to think we’re one of the most prepared and one of the best teams in the state. So we took that to heart and that gave us some extra motivation … an extra little push that we needed.”

CBW certainly seemed to come out of the gate like a team on a mission, but the Panthers haven’t been strangers to slow starts.

Central York’s Anthony Savage gets the ball past Central Bucks West defenders Christian Rupert (32) and Keith Saunders (18) on Tuesday.

Central York’s Anthony Savage gets the ball past Central Bucks West defenders Christian Rupert (32) and Keith Saunders (18) on Tuesday.

“In the (quarterfinals) against Neshaminy, we were down 8-1 but we came back,” said Central’s Alex Klunk (three kills, six blocks). “That was a big thing for us, knowing that we can come back.”

Trailing 20-15 late in Game 1, the Panthers got on a roll, finishing with a 10-3 run to claim victory.

“I think we were a little tense early on,” said Clemens (10 kills, six blocks, 16 digs, two aces). “And we usually don’t come out like that. They’re a big team and they kind of got to us early on, but once we settled down we kind of set the tone.”

The heart-breaking loss in Game 1 appeared to take some of the life out of the Bucks in Game 2. The Panthers dominated after breaking an 8-8 tie with a three-point run. They were also assisted when Miller called for a timeout just before Central missed a serve into the net. That serve was wiped off and the Panthers scored three more points after that to go ahead 20-12.

With nearly every Central fan on their feet after taking Game 2, the Bucks seized control with a 5-0 run to start Game 3. That forced Livingston to use a timeout. He felt his team stopped playing with the rhythm they discovered late in Game 1.

“The beginning of that third game was when we got out of our game plan,” the Central coach said. “We weren’t doing the things we did in the first two (games). So we got back to playing the game plan, the kids executed it well, and we were able to catch up to them.”

One of the big points of the contest came when junior Jeremiah Dadeboe was able to secure the kill that evened up the score at 17-17. For good measure, the athletic outside, who tallied 11 kills for the match, added three more down the stretch, including the final point of the night.

“He was huge at the end,” Livingston said. “They had people floating (opposite) and Dylan (Hose) was getting him the ball over here. Really one-on-one or with two guys chasing, and he made some great shots.”

The triumph seemed to elicit some of the same emotions that would be reserved for a state final. The Panthers formed a huddle and celebrated while Livingston, who is usually more stoic, even appeared to revel in the moment.

“It was loud, it was noisy and it was a lot of fun,” Livingston said. “It certainly did have the feel of a big-league game.”

Hose dished out 35 assists and tallied three blocks in the victory.

— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at



If a volleyball team is still around at this point in the year, it’s likely because they have more than one solid player on the court.

Sure, there might be the star player, which Northeastern has in senior Luke Braswell. But he’s surrounded by plenty of Bobcats with their own talents.

Sophomore middle hitter Jeff Reynolds can drill some mean spikes and can block just about anything at the net when paired alongside Braswell. Sophomore outside hitter Reese Devilbiss is equally aggressive when it comes to kills. And he and senior Matt Hollinger serve up aces that give opposing teams headaches.

There’s also junior outside hitter Philip White. While he’s a third-year starter, White has learned from mistakes on the court earlier this season and has really been coming into his own as of late. He had perhaps his best of the game of the year Tuesday, helping the Bobcats defeat Holy Redeemer, 25-13, 25-9, 25-15, in a PIAA Class AA semifinal game at Freedom High School in Bethlehem. Northeastern, which has yet to lose a set in the state tournament, returns to the state title game for the second year in a row.

The District 3-AA champion and defending state champion Bobcats will now face District 1-AA champion Ambridge on Saturday in the state championship game at Penn State at 11 a.m. It’ll be a rematch of last year’s state title game. The teams have also met at previous tournaments earlier this year.

“Ambridge is up on us 2-1 for the season,” Northeastern coach Matt Wilson said. “They’re solid. They may have one of the single best attackers in the country. Lee Smith is as good as you’re gonna find on the high school level.”

Like Northeastern’s Braswell, Smith is a recruit of NCAA Division I Penn State.

White: White collected a game-high 12 kills to go along with three aces and one dig in Tuesday’s win.

“The big thing is he (White) always played up front for us. He kind of lacked that presence in the backcourt,” Wilson said. “We’ve been trying to push him to get a bigger presence in the backcourt. It’s starting to show.”

Even with those mistakes corrected, White had issues with his self confidence whenever he made a bad play.

“I would get down on myself at the beginning of the season,” White said Tuesday. “Starting off the games I would always get down. Coach has been on me about staying up and focused.”

His newfound ability to bounce back from mistakes was evident in Game 3 on Tuesday, when White hit a serve out of bounds, cutting the Bobcats’ lead to 12-8. A moment later, White’s kill attempt bounced into the net to cut Northeastern’s advantage down to 12-10. However, White responded later with back-to-back kills to push the score to 21-13. He served up an ace a few points later to make it 24-15 before senior teammate Casey Winand (six kills, one block) capped off the night with a kill.

“We’ve been on a roll recently,” White said. “Through districts and states. We just have to bring that intensity to the state final.”

Braswell finished with 30 assists, five blocks, four kills and one dig. Devilbiss (nine digs, six aces, five kills, five blocks) and Reynolds (seven kills, one assist, one dig) also paced the Bobcat attack.

— Reach John Walk at



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