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Knights upend Barons for 19th L-L crown
KEVIN GANNON Record Express Correspondent
, Staff Writer
The Hempfield boys volleyball team captured its 19th L-L championship on Tuesday night, defeating Manheim Central 3-0 in the League finals at Manheim Township High School.
The Barons (17-1) played extremely well early in games one and two, but Hempfield (14-0) rallied back and stole both games, 26-24 and 25-23. Manheim Central seemed to tire in game three, and Hempfield went on to win the game 25-16 to clinch the crown.
Central led most of the first game behind the stellar play of Josiah Hershberger. Hershberger recorded 10 kills along with three aces in game one, propelling his team to a rather comfortable lead. However, errors by the Barons would allow Hempfield to remain in the game. The Black Knights continued to rally and eventually tied the game at 24-24. A costly double-hit was called on the Barons and Hempfield re-gained its first lead since early in game one, 25-24. Hempfield sealed game one 26-24 after the Barons made a play on a ball headed out-of-bounds.
Both teams continued the high quality play into the second game. Again, Manheim Central rallied and then committed costly errors down the stretch in game two. Hershberger was neutralized throughout most of the game, but Hempfield’s Garret Dimm erupted for six late kills, carrying the Black Knights to a 25-23 victory.
Hempfield carried the momentum into game three and led 6-1 early. After a Hempfield timeout, Central answered with a small run, closing the deficit to 17-11. A variety of Black Knight errors fueled the Barons rally, but the team seemed to run out of gas. On the final point of the championship, Hempfield’s Zach Walter came through with a huge block and Hempfield prevailed 25-16 in game three.
"Either team could have won those first two games," Manheim Central coach Craig Dietrich said. "They really made one more play than we did in each game."
The quality of play was not lost on the Barons head coach either.
"When you’re playing volleyball like that, both teams, that is extremely high level of volleyball. We weren’t playing for second place tonight," Dietrich said of his team.
The Barons will now look to regroup and focus on District play. Manheim Central has lost in the semi-finals in the past three years and coach Dietrich hopes this year will be different.
"We have a great team, we are the two seed and we will go in with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder," Dietrich said. "We have a bit of unfinished business there and we are looking forward to it."
The Barons advanced to the L-L finals by overcoming a 1-0 deficit against Section One runner-up Penn Manor on Monday night, eventually pulling out a 3-1 decision (19-25, 26-24, 25-18, 25-23) in the semi-finals at Warwick High School.
With the Comets up a game and threatening to double that advantage in the second, Central erased a 20-17 deficit with two kills and a block by Hershberger. Penn Manor regained advantages of 21-20 and 24-23, but MC scored the final three points of the game, culminating with Hershberger’s booming spike, to get on the scoreboard. The Barons’ senior star finished with a match-high 28 kills.
"We absolutely had to have that game and I think that was a big momentum-changer," Dietrich said. "Penn Manor, if they win that, they’re up 2-0, they’re feeling really good about their chances of finishing off the match. After that, it’s, ‘OK, now we’re even, it’s 1-1, the next game is the big momentum-changer.’ It’s tough to come back from 2-1, especially once you’ve lost two straight games like that. Credit to our guys for kinda battling through. We didn’t play our best volleyball tonight, but we’re at this level now where it doesn’t matter how you win, as long as you win."
The Barons did in fact take their second straight game, building as much as a nine-point lead, 23-14 and then holding on to win by a 25-18 decision. Nate Ginder finished with a team-high four blocks in the match.
In a tightly-fought fourth game, neither team led by more than three points. The Comets led as late as 19-18, looking to force a decisive fifth game. But it didn’t happen.
Hershberger’s kill snapped a 21-21 tie and gave the Barons a lead they never lost, eventually sealing it on a Penn Manor error.
"That was some of the best defense we played in awhile," Dietrich said. "I was pleased to see the ball pursuit on our side of the court tonight."
Last Friday, Hershberger recorded 16 kills, five blocks and two aces while helping the Barons drop Cedar Crest 3-0 (25-13, 25-16, 25-16) in the L-L quarterfinals in Manheim.
"I thought we did a good job of playing our game tonight," Dietrich said. "I thought we served pretty well tonight. Robbie Lawyer had his serve going pretty good and made them really move around a lot, they got out of system and created a lot of easy point opportunities for us. We didn’t make too many errors on the hitting side tonight and most people know, that have seen us, that we can pretty much hurt you from anywhere. All of our guys can hurt you, so it’s just a matter of who’s going to score for us now. It’s a nice luxury to have."
Bruce Morgan also contributed to this story.
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