EXETER TWP. >> For the second year in a row, Dock ran into the Class 2A bracket’s biggest roadblock, five-time defending State Champion Northeastern.
Looking forward to a rematch all season long, the Pioneers got off to strong starts in Games One and Two, came on strong late in Game Three, but the Bobcats remained on their annual path, earning a 3-0 win (25-12, 25-12, 25-17) in a PIAA-2A Quarterfinal Match at Exeter Township High School.
The win advances Northeastern to a semifinal matchup with either Holy Redeemer or Palmyra on Tuesday. Dock saw its season come to an end, but the District One Champs got their swings in against quite possibly the best volleyball team in the state.
“Tough matchup, but something we wanted since the beginning of the year,” said Pioneers coach Trish Hoover, who guided her team to a 15-5 mark. “It really is great to play a team that’s probably the best team in the state. They have been for the past five years and probably will win again this year.
“So going into it, we knew it was a huge battle. But for us, it was coming in, competing, and putting our best game forward and no matter what, until the last whistle blew, we weren’t gonna lay down and die.”
Lincoln Bergey had five kills and Ryan Class added four, and Jeremy Yoder had 12 assists. The Pioneers were coming off a victory over Berwick in the opening round.
“You’re always trying to come in with a lot of confidence,” Yoder said, “and you’re going against the top teams. You can tell. During warmups, (Northeastern) had every single guy putting balls down. We tried to come out strong, which I think we did, but their serving was the best we’ve seen all year, by far.”
Six different players had aces for the Bobcats, including Wyatt Hughes with a pair.
“We hadn’t seen serving like that all year. We weren’t really sure how to adjust to it,” Yoder said. “They were able to mix it up: floats, deep short, top spin, deep short…But this season has been one of our best seasons in a long while at Dock.”
Troy Vasey had three blocks for Dock, which goes against tough competition all year but was up against its stiffest challenge on Saturday.
“They have so many attacks from so many places,” Hoover said of the Bobcats. “And the tempo — even of their passing — is so much quicker than any of the teams we face in the regular season.
“So yeah, I would say all around, they were a little bit better this year than they were last year. They’re just a very skilled team and a very disciplined team.”
Cole Brillhart had 11 kills for the District Three Champs, Hughes had nine and Alex Finch eight. The Bobcats also give their opponent a lot of different looks to digest.
“I think more of their attack was from the outside and the back row, which you think ‘oh, maybe they’re out of system. But even out of system, they’re in system,’” Hoover said with a laugh.
Dock was tied 4-4 in the first set until Northeastern was able to put together a 7-1 burst. The Pioneers pulled to within 11-8 in the third set but again Northeastern went on a run.
Dock loses a lot of valuable seniors but has some key juniors along with some incoming freshmen to build around for next season.
“Coming in here, we were the underdogs and we knew it,” said Yoder, who won’t be playing next year but heads to The University of Colorado — Colorado Springs. “We knew we were gonna have to do something special today to beat a team like that. And it just wasn’t our time but I’m incredibly proud of our boys this season and all that we’ve accomplished.”
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