Knights survive test from MC in L-L finalsBoys’ Volleyball
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
In the eyes of many, Manheim Central probably didn’t stand much of a chance against heavily-favored Hempfield in the L-L League finals last Friday.
After all, the Black Knights were battle-tested and had a senior-dominated lineup.
And they had won all but three of the L-L crowns since the first one was played in 1993.
But the Section Two champion Barons didn’t get the memo.
In fact, they gave Hempfield all it could handle … and then some. Ultimately, the Black Knights did win their fifth straight L-L championship, as senior Sean Snyder registered an eye-popping 34 kills while leading them to a 3-1 win (25-20, 25-22, 26-28, 25-22).
But Central won something too — a ton of respect.
"We were very competitive in the match," Central coach Craig Dietrich said. "We had some opportunities right into the 20s to take more than a game and maybe even the match. But Hempfield was a little deeper than we were. I think the better team won, but I think we definitely cemented ourselves as a team to be reckoned with in the league. I think that the important thing is we earned a lot of people’s respect."
With a number of sophomores playing significant roles — including setter Robbie Lawyer, libero Brayden Fahnestock and middle hitter Josiah Hershberger — don’t be surprised to see more of the Barons in coming years. That, coupled with the confidence they gained from testing one of the State’s elite, could go a long way for the Barons.
"I think we learned a lot about ourselves that match," Dietrich said. "We went into that match maybe thinking, ‘Ah geez, it’d be nice to take a game. Then once we took a game, it was, ‘You know what? We can win this match. Not maybe. We can win this match.’ And I think that’s going to provide extreme dividends down the stretch here as we get to Districts. I’m really excited for the District run and hopefully the State run."
Snyder made his presence felt for the Knights as they snapped an 18-18 tie late in game one and went on a 7-2 run to close out their 25-20 victory.
Then in the second game, the two teams traded numerous sideouts until Hempfield finally gained some separation late and earned a 25-22 decision. But Lawyer continued to play beyond his years while quarterbacking the MC offense and Hershberger stepped up with a monster night at the net with 18 kills and six blocks.
"Robbie Lawyer’s done an excellent job as a sophomore — being a setter is a tough job and he’s adapted to that," Dietrich said. "Josiah Hershberger had a phenomenal final. I mean, he was definitely opening up some eyes to his abilities and he was impressive."
The Barons, as a team, continued their impressive play in the third game and jumped out to early leads of 8-3 and 14-9. The Black Knights hung around and were trailing only 18-15, then reeled off three straight to tie it 18-all. But the Central boys were resilient and with the scored deadlocked at 26-all, senior Joel Harnly and Austin Good registered back-to-back kills to give the Barons a 28-26 win. Senior Brad Steinweg came through with a key pancake late in the game to keep the Barons’ hopes alive.
"It was a really nice rally to win the game," Dietrich said. "It was one of those things where you look at our kids and we’re very blue collar as far as who we are and what we do. In some positions, we’re not the most athletic and or the biggest, but we definitely work extremely hard and the kids earned that game. Hempfield’s a great team."
Getting Steinweg, a senior, back in the lineup after a bout of mono cost him half the season has been critical in Central’s success this year.
"That made a big difference for us," Dietrich said.
Another senior Aaron Swarr also came up big on Friday with eight kills and four blocks.
But Hempfield responded strong to the game three loss, breaking away to as much as an eight-point lead. The Barons, however, didn’t go away and they cut their deficit to 23-20 and then 24-22. Eventually, however, Mark Feiler’s spike sealed the Knights’ 25-22 clinching win.
"We could’ve easily folded up the tent and said, ‘We took a game from them.’ But the guys showed a little resiliency and battled back and made Hempfield definitely earn things," Dietrich said. "We didn’t back down at all from them. We knew exactly what they were going to do, we had an excellent game plan, and I think they just made a couple more plays down the stretch … Everybody is saying, ‘Well, you guys maybe just weren’t ready.’ But our sophomores and our seniors got us to this point. It wasn’t just that Hempfield’s experience won out. Our sophomores didn’t take a break in this whole thing. We definitely arrived and Hempfield was pretty worried."
Last Wednesday, May 18, seniors Joel Harnly and Aaron Swarr and sophomore Josiah Hershberger recorded nine kills apiece, as the Barons shut out Garden Spot 3-0 to advance to their first-ever appearance in the L-L League finals.
Harnly also served up three aces, and the Barons survived a late scare from the Spartans in game one to take the early advantage, 25-22. Central and GS were deadlocked at 19-all late in the second game, and then the Barons used a 6-3 game-ending spurt, helped by a Austin Good’s spike, to clinch a 25-22 victory. Good also chipped in with two blocks in the match.
In the third game, Central took charge with a 21-13 lead and then finished off the Spartans with a 25-17 decision. More L-L VOLLEYBALL, page B-2