LEESPORT >> Dock Mennonite ventured west on Saturday, into the thick of the state bracket, taking on four-time defending champion Northeastern High.
Making it this far, against an opponent so good, held special meaning to the Pioneers’ Dylan Derstine.
“It meant the world. As soon as I tore (my ACL) during soccer season, the first thing I did was count down the weeks and how many games I was gonna miss until volleyball,” Dock’s senior setter said.
“This group of boys is what kept me going. Every time I was in the gym pushing sleds or doing box jumps, they’re screaming my name, telling me to go harder, do one more rep, do 10 more pounds. They were the reason why I was trying to get back so fast and so hard.”
And Derstine was a major reason the Pioneers went so far, reaching the state quarters for the first time since 2004, back when they were in Class 3A. Dock’s deepest postseason push came to an end on Saturday, as powerful Northeastern rose to a 3-0 victory, but Dock clearly had its moments in the 25-16, 25-18, 25-17 decision at Schuylkill Valley.
“We did what we could to chip away point by point,” Derstine said, “but they’d put up a really good fight and every time we’d make a run of two or three points, they’d make a run of two or three points.
“They’re just so consistent, offensively and defensively. Our block just couldn’t get there fast enough sometimes. You gotta play really scrappy defense to play against a team like this but I was proud of how we played. The defense was probably the best we’ve had all year.”
Dock battled the champs to a 14-14 tie in Game Two and got within 16-14 in Game Three. Lincoln Bergey, despite injuring his left elbow in the second set, managed five kills, four digs, one ace; Jaden Hunsberger hit the floor for 12 digs; and Dan Moyer added four kills and one block for Dock.
The Bobcats, led in part by Cole Brillhart and Dakoda Hoffman, advance to the state semis to face Manheim Central.
“We were really excited to play Northeastern,” Pioneers coach Trish Hoover said. “It was a great opportunity to see how we match up with the state’s top team in 2A. It was an exciting match and I’m really proud of the way the guys played.
“We had a great week of practice and every day we were loose and relaxed because coming into this, we had absolutely nothing to lose.”
Bergey, much like his team, didn’t give in.
“He wasn’t able to play anything over head — luckily it was his left arm but he was really hurting,” Hoover said. “He is a guy who doesn’t know how to play anything but 100 percent all the time. So for him to be injured and still play through was huge.
“Dylan, our senior setter going out, did a great job setting. And for him to get this opportunity to play in the state quarterfinals as a senior, he was really excited for that opportunity and passionate about it.”
“As a school, an organization, it was great to be back here,” Derstine said of the big stage. “It was a neat experience, for this group the first time ever in the state playoffs.
“I have nothing but complete trust in my guys that they’re gonna come back next year and make it at least this far.”
The Pioneers lose two seniors but have five juniors returning, “and some really hungry sophomores,” Hoover said. “So the future for us looks really bright. And that was one of the most exciting things was to get them to this level this year as juniors. Going into next year, this really helps us know where we need to get to.”