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Classic performance: Warriors reach tourney finals, finish 2nd
by Bruce Morgan
The Warwick boys volleyball team had come such a long way on Saturday in their annual Classic.
Going 9-1 in their pool to clinch a No. 1 seed heading to the playoffs, the Warriors remained hot and advanced all the way to the tournament finals.
Sadly, it ended with a tough break.
Tied at one game apiece against Emmaus and trailing 14-13 in the third, the Warriors saw their hopes of a Classic title go by the wayside when a Green Hornets’ match-point serve hit the top of the tape and rolled onto Warwick’s side of the net, giving the District 11 power the 2-1 win.
“The guys were just kinda stunned,” Warwick coach Nate Gajecki said. “It was a hard-fought match and then it comes down this weird kind of play to end it all. It was something out of their control, they couldn’t have done anything better.”
Still, to place second in a 12-team tournament – which also included such tough opponents as Daniel Boone, Coughlin, Roman Catholic and Brandywine Heights and L-L rivals Cocalico, Manheim Township, Cedar Crest and Elizabethtown – was a solid improvement from their showing at the previous weekend’s Northeastern Tournament.
Confidence-boosting wins over Manheim Central and Ephrata certainly contributed to their cause in the week leading up to the Warwick Classic.
“We continued what we did on Thursday night (against Ephrata),” Gajecki said. “We passed well and utilized the middle really well, which opened up our outsides. Last Monday after the Northeastern Tournament, we sat down with everybody and kinda gave them 10 things to challenge themselves with, 10 ways that they could improve and the guys are being honest with themselves and trying to get better, which is nice to see.”
Emmaus and Warwick split in Pool B play en route to finishing with a 9-1 record, but the tiebreaker went to the Warriors for the No. 1 seed. From there, they played dominant in a 25-15 win over Manheim Twp. in the quarter-finals.
“We definitely wanted to set the tone for the rest of the playoffs,” Gajecki said. “We really wanted to come out and make sure that we were executing and not missing our serves and just making sure that we were playing fundamentally sound volleyball.”
That set the stage for a semi-final round match-up against Daniel Boone, and the Warwick boys marched on with a 2-0 shutout, defeating the Blazers by scores of 25-18, 25-15.
“They’re a very good team,” Gajecki said of Daniel Boone, “but we handled them pretty well. We were executing very well on serve receive but then also getting some big blocks and getting some good touches on defense.”
Warwick relied on that same formula while jumping out to a 1-0 lead in its rematch against Emmaus, taking the first game 25-14.
“We were clicking on all cylinders,” Gajecki said.
After the two teams switched sides, the Green Hornets stole the momentum and won game two, 25-18, to even things up.
“Unfortunately when you give up a couple points, you go back and your a little more tentative on your serve – not that you missed your serve, but we probably gave them an easier serve to pass and they were able to side out,” Gajecki recalled. “Emmaus is a very emotional team, they’re very loud when they’re doing well, and that kinda got their momentum rolling.”
To the Warriors’ credit, they quickly regrouped and grabbed the early lead in game three. Emmaus countered and the score was tied 11-11.
Not long afterward, the Green Hornets sealed the win with their ace off the tape.
“It just hit the top of the net and fell on our side,” Gajecki said. “It’s just not something you prepare for every single serve.”
Having secured the silver medal from their Classic, Warwick is now preparing for a week which includes matches against Cedar Crest and McCaskey.
“Getting to the (Classic) playoffs was a goal. To get the whole way to the finals, that was nice, especially the way we played the weekend before,” Gajecki said.
Last Thursday, Colton Keller recorded eight kills and Gavin Schaffer added three blocks, as the Warwick boys shut out host Ephrata 3-0 in a Section One match.
Warwick took control from the start and never let go, winning 25-13, 25-15, 25-19. Zach Gingrich and Schaffer each served an ace.