Barons outlast Hempfield to reach the L-L finals

By on May 17, 2017
With a Conestoga Valley hitter swinging away, Manheim Central’s Mason Nissley (26) goes up at the net for a block in last Friday’s match. Photo by Alan Johnson

With a Conestoga Valley hitter swinging away, Manheim Central’s Mason Nissley (26) goes up at the net for a block in last Friday’s match. Photo by Alan Johnson

The Manheim Central boys’ volleyball team pushed its undefeated non-tournament record to 18-0 on Monday night.

But no victory was more impressive than the one they earned at Lancaster Mennonite High School.

This one, with a berth in the Lancaster-Lebanon League finals at stake, came against perennial State power Hempfield.

Sophomore outside hitter Mason Nissley recorded a match-high 22 kills and the Barons outlasted the Black Knights 3-2 in the L-L’s Final Four. This was the same Hempfield team that has won 21 L-L titles — including the last two — and 10 PIAA State titles, including last year’s tourney.

But it was Manheim Central who prevailed 22-25, 25-13, 25-20, 21-25 and 15-10, punching their ticket to the L-L finals last night (Wednesday) against Manheim Township, a 3-2 winner over Penn Manor in the other semi-final.

“I think it’s a pretty good win,” MC coach Craig Dietrich said. “To beat a Mike Vogel-coached team any time is special, regardless of the setting. They are the program everybody models after.”

The Barons trailed set one 9-7 before running off six straight points and forcing a Black Knight timeout. Central was paced by Nissley’s two kills in the streak, and the Barons maintained that four-point lead until 19-15, when Hempfield surged ahead for the final 25-22 margin.

“When we didn’t close out that first set, it brought back bad memories of being up against Penn Manor at their tournament,” Dietrich added. “We had a chance to close them out and didn’t do it.”

Central jumped out to an 11-4 lead in set two and stretched the lead to 15-5, prompting Vogel to circle his troops for the second time. This time, there was no rally as the Knights committed six uncharacteristic errors during the final eight Baron points.

“I was glad we got the second game,” Dietrich noted. “I thought that was a must win for us.”

Manheim took the lead for the first time in set three at 7-6 and led 15-11 after a stretch that saw four kills by junior Tanner Stauffer (19 kills for the match). The lead held up for a 25-20 win and the Barons’ confidence was clear.

But nothing would be easy.

Hempfield, after all, was the defending league and state champions. Sure enough, the Black Knights gained the lead at 3-2 and never relinquished it, forcing the decisive set number five.

Set five included a number of lengthy rallies, the majority of which were successful for the Barons.

“I kept telling the guys, ‘Just be patient,’” Dietrich said Dietrich. “If they keep giving us opportunities, sooner or later one is going to hit the ground.”

After Nissley connected on the final two swings, the Baron bench rushed the floor and the celebration was on.

“I thought, without being disrespectful to them, we played well enough to sweep them,” Dietrich added. “I think tonight kind of validates in their minds how special they can be.”

In addition to the powerful kills of Nissley and Stauffer, the offense was directed by junior setter Ben Burkhart, who distributed a massive 60 assists. He also anchored the defense with four solo blocks. Junior Isaac Shenk also blocked the net four times as part of what coach Dietrich described as a total team effort.

“As a group tonight, we stepped up when it mattered,” Dietrich said. “I think the whole group pulled it in when it mattered the most.”

Asked if keeping the undefeated streak alive mattered to this group, Dietrich laughed and said, “We never want to lose. Not as much as losing an early round District game. That could end our season.”

The Barons maintain the number one seed for the District Three Double-A Tournament, which gets underway tonight (Thursday).

Last Friday, Nissley had 10 kills to help lead the Section Two champion Barons in a 3-0 shutout of Conestoga Valley (25-17, 25-14, 25-21)

Tanner Stauffer chipped in with three aces to help lead the attack, while Burkhart finished with 27 assists. Defensively, Gabe Stewart stepped up with six blocks and Brandyn Musser added six digs.

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