READING >> Daniel Boone’s run to the top goes well beyond the typical four-year stint that most high school teams feature.
The Blazers go way beyond that.
A group that’s played together since well before middle school finally achieved one of its ultimate goals on Saturday night, earning the program’s first Berks Boys Volleyball League title with a 3-0 straight-set sweep of Governor Mifflin at Wyomissing High School.
“It’s amazing,” said senior captain Ian Rathgeb. “We’ve all been playing together since we were in middle school, so this is something that we’ve been aiming for since we were kids.
“It all started with the net back in (Boone teammate) Danny Dry’s backyard. That’s where we all came together and learned to play volleyball.”
And now here they are.
The Blazers, top-seed from Berks Conference I, ousted the defending champion Mustangs by set scores of 25-19, 25-21 and 25-21. The win improves Boone to 16-1 overall (10-0 in Berks), opening up their Berks postseason run with a straight-set win over Wilson. For the year, the Blazers’ lone loss came against Manheim Township in mid-April. Mifflin drops to 14-6 overall (8-2 Berks), fresh off their semifinal round win over Berks II top-seed Berks Catholic.
Rathgeb posted 12 kills and two aces to go along with a tide-turning block during the second set to help the Blazers recover from a 20-17 deficit. Senior Jamison Burns had 13 digs to go along with four kills while senior Matt Lambert posted five kills and four digs. Senior Danny Dry finished up with 29 assists and six digs.
“Every senior contributes,” said Boone head coach Tom Heffner. “Our captains on paper are Ian Rathgeb in the middle and Matt Lambert on the outside but our leadership comes from every single position on the court — that was tonight and all season.
“It wasn’t one guy carrying the load. We did it as a team. That’s what makes this thing so sweet.”
What was sweet for one side turned out to be sour for the other.
In a sport so dominated by momentum swings, Mifflin head coach Matt Davis was quick to note that the Mustangs’ inability to close out the second set changed the entire match.
“If you can get that second game, you can get that momentum back,” he said. “I think they just did a better job of responding to the big runs of the game. A 3-0 win can look like a blowout, or it can be a really close match. We just weren’t able to get over the top in any of these games.”
The Mustangs played it tight throughout all three sets, but were ultimately done in by Boone’s runs.
Jonas Connor led Mifflin with eight kills and four digs while Brandon Allen finished with seven kills. Jon Demeter had six kills while Ryan Lawes had 29 assists and four digs.
Much like the dirt patches and molehills that are likely still scattered throughout the Dry family’s backyard, the Blazers’ legacy will live on even after the current crop of seniors graduate.
“We knew that we could beat anybody in this county,” said Rathgeb. “It was all up to us.”
As it stands currently, Daniel Boone sits fourth in the District 3 Class AAA power rankings. Mifflin is currently 11th.
“We just talked about it with the guys,” said Davis. “The season’s not over. A couple district wins can help this a little bit. There is no easy team in the District 3 tournament, so we have to be able to regroup.”