Barons lose heartbreaker to LMH in District semis
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
Leading 13-10 in the decisive fifth game last Friday, the Manheim Central boys volleyball team liked its chances in the District Three Double-A semi-finals.
But L-L League Section Two rival Lancaster Mennonite didn’t go away.
In fact, the Blazers answered by scoring the final five points and dealt the Barons a heartbreaking 15-13 defeat to win the hard-fought match 3-2. Senior Matt Lauver paced LMH with 22 kills, helping his team prevail 25-22, 17-25, 16-25, 27-25, 15-13.
"Really, the match changed in a matter of, like, four points right at the end of the fifth game," Manheim Central coach Craig Dietrich said. "I expected (the match) to be close. I don’t want to say I didn’t expect it to go five games. I thought and I still think — no disrespect to (LMH) — that we are the better team. But they managed to win and pull together points when it counted. They outscored us 5-0 in the last five points of the game and they definitely earned it."
Suffice it to say, the Barons and Blazers were no strangers to each other, having battled throughout the regular season for the upper hand in the Section Two race. Central won on its home court, then the Blazers returned the favor in Lancaster, and the Barons beat LMH in a tiebreaker match for the Section.
Again last Friday night, there was little separating the two teams, as the Blazers got the early advantage with a three-point win in the first game, and then the Barons rebounded to win the next two.
"We really served them aggressively in those (second and third) games," Dietrich said. "We had a couple kids come in off the bench and hit some jump serves for us and really got (LMH) out of their offense, and it translated into easy points for our team."
Senior Aaron Swarr paced the Barons with three aces, while sophomore Josiah Hershberger played big at the net with a team-high 19 kills and two blocks.
But while Hershberger proved to be a force for the Barons, Lancaster Mennonite also came up with its share of key blocks on the Barons during the match.
"(Josiah) was very effective for us," Dietrich said. "He scored a lot when he touched the ball. (But) it was one of those things where, at that level, you need three, four guys that are putting the ball away in order to win matches and (LMH’s) blocks slowed us down a little bit. They got some key blocks on some of our guys and I think that may have gotten into our heads a little bit."
That helped the Blazers lead for the majority of the fourth game. Central battled back to tie it 24-24, but LMH eventually pulled out the 27-25 victory.
"In the fourth game, they managed to weather the storm a little bit," Dietrich said. "They led pretty much throughout."
The Blazers also led early in the fifth game, 4-0. Manheim Central, however, righted the ship and pulled ahead to a 13-10 lead. At that point, during a timeout, Dietrich and his players noticed that Lauver was hobbled by an ankle injury on the Blazers’ sideline.
"I saw him mouth to the setter, Nick Weaver, ‘I don’t know if I can go,’ and I was like, ‘Wow, it’s 13-10 and all we have to do is put them in a pressure situation,’" Dietrich said.
But Lauver, in fact, could go. And even on an injured ankle, the Blazers’ senior was a nemessis for the Barons, putting away three balls to seal the win for Lancaster Mennonite.
"(Lauver) definitely was the difference for them down the stretch," Dietrich said. "I think it was one of those things where he was like, ‘I’m going to play this and whatever happens after this happens, but I’m not going out like this.’ So credit to him."
The loss to the Blazers had a carry-over effect early in Central’s consolation match against Dover, as the Barons dropped the first two games 25-21, 25-20. They regrouped to take the next two 25-16, 25-19, but the Eagles won the decisive fifth game, 15-9.
"We tried to stress the importance of finishing third because we had a much easier play-in match in States if we did and I think the kids were pretty disappointed," Dietrich said. "It took them a good two games to rebound and by then, we were down 2-0 to Dover."
Swarr had 13 kills and a team-best six aces to lead the Barons against Dover. Senior Joel Harnly also registered 13 kills and Hershberger finished with a team-high three blocks. More BARONS, page B-6