Township survives the BaronsBoys Volleyball
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
During a timeout late in game four on Monday night, Manheim Central boys volleyball coach Craig Dietrich talked to his players about making a big play to punctuate their victory.
They got it on a convincing block by junior star Josiah Hershberger, sealing a 25-21 win by the Section Two runner-up Barons to pull them even with Manheim Township in games, 2-2, in a Lancaster-Lebanon League quarterfinal playoff match.
"We really wanted to end the game on some type of defensive play or big bang play just to kinda get (Township) thinking and I said, ‘Let’s go out and get them,’ and Josiah got them and I thought that would maybe propel us a little bit in the fifth game," Dietrich said.
The Section One third-place Blue Streaks, though, stymied some of that momentum by taking an early lead in the decisive fifth game. They twice led by as many as three points – the second of those at 12-9 – and Central rallied to tie it 12-all. But Township scored the final three points, and Shawn Hines’ block nailed down a 15-12 Blue Streaks’ decision, clinching their 3-2 victory.
"I think both teams played at a pretty high level," Dietrich said. "I think the key was both teams were a little up and down throughout the match. I don’t want to say (Township) played at a more consistently high level than we did. I just think that our mistakes were at more inopportune times than theirs were."
In a match where neither team won by more than four points, Township’s 26-24, 22-25, 26-24, 21-25, 15-12 win sent them to Tuesday’s L-L semi-finals against Section One champ Penn Manor, while the Barons turned their attention toward the District Three Double-A playoffs which get underway next Monday, May 21.
Their attention in game one on Monday was focused toward overcoming deficits of 18-14 and 21-17, which they did with a 7-1 run culminating with one of Hershberger’s team-high 31 kills. He shared match-high honors with the Blue Streaks’ Hines. But the Barons couldn’t put away the Streaks, who eventually capitalized on a couple MC errors to win 25-21.
"I think the word tonight was ‘opportunity’ and I think the guys know that we left a lot of opportunities out there on the table," Dietrich remarked.
The Barons bounced back in game two to score the first three points and they built their lead to 21-15 on a kill by Hershberger. Township closed its deficit to 24-22, but this time, Central was able to put away the victory.
Hershberger also had a team-best eight blocks, while Luke Spang finished with two aces, setter Robbie Lawyer led the way with 49 assists and Shawn Sauder powered the Barons’ defensive effort with 24 digs.
"It was the eight point spurts," Dietrich said. "They would get up like 7-1 or 6-2 in an eight-point spurt and then we’d come back in the next eight or 10 and be up 7-3, 8-2. So it was really like, ‘OK, now the score is in the 20s. Who’s going to make the least amount of mistakes and who’s going to terminate at that point?’"
Township looked like it might terminate MC early in game three, jumping out to a 12-3 lead. But to the Barons’ credit, they fought back and took their first lead at 21-20 on a Blue Streaks’ error. Later with the score tied 24-24, MT regained the advantage on one of Central’s four game-three service errors, and they sealed a 26-24 win on a kill by Jon Hoh.
"I think that was another opportunity where we were up there and just couldn’t finish it," Dietrich said. "I think for them that was a big momentum game. They knew going into the last two games that they really just had to win one game. I think that was more of a confidence boost for them."
Needing a win in game four to keep it alive, the Barons played to an eye-popping 13 ties against the Streaks in that game. Finally, with Central leading 22-21, Kam Landis’ kill and back-to-back blocks by Hershberger put a 25-21 win in the books to force a fifth game.
There, in another back-and-forth slugfest, Hershberger’s kill put MC up 6-5, and then the Streaks answered with a 5-1 spurt, including a push by Hines into the deep right corner. That was one of two which the Blue Streaks’ star dropped in against MC in game five.
"Those two were very close to the sideline within less than six inches of the sideline and you tip your cap at that point and say, ‘Hey, good spot,’" Dietrich said. "I think our guys are out there digging in a little, expecting a big hit, and then you see it go over your head and it freezes you. That was pretty smart of him."
The Barons got it even at 12-12, but Township scored the final three points on Evan McCoy’s kill, J.J. Ruhl’s ace and Hines’ block.
"I think the kids played well," Dietrich said. "There’s not too much I think I could have asked more out of them other than we just needed to finish plays and we didn’t. The guys know that. I think when they’re in the moment, they don’t realize the moment."
The Barons will now try to bounce back when they face Schuylkill Valley in their District Three Double-A opener.
"(If we beat Schuylkill Valley), that will put us into pool play situation where we have York Suburban – they’re the top team in the State and they’re good," Dietrich said. "Other than that, really, we have a great shot of advancing out of there and into States. So it’s just a matter of can we stay focused and play at that consistent level that day." More VOLLEYBALL, page B-3