Dylan Weber admitted that his nerves and those of his teammates were working overtime as Penn Manor's volleyball match against Section One rival Hempfield got under way Thursday night.
And who could blame the Comets' senior outside hitter?
Through his high school career, Penn Manor hadn't beaten the Black Knights in league play.
"I think we took one game from them when I was a sophomore," Weber said.
The Comets, who hadn't beaten Hempfield in league play since April 24, 2008, when Manor's current seniors were in middle school, recovered from their bout of nerves.
Despite losing two of the first three games of the match, they rebounded to win games four and five to win the match, 3-2 (25-27, 25-21, 23-25, 25-23, 15-8) in Millersville.
"It's a mental game when we play Hempfield," Weber said. "If we stay mentally strong, we win the match. And that's what we did."
Weber contributed 16 kills to the Manor effort, one less than his team's kills leader, Dayonte Dixon, who had 17. Those two were the primary hitters on a team with multiple offensive options. In the end, the Comets had too many for the Black Knights to stop.
"Our coach told us to come out like it's just another game but you can't help those feelings (when you play Hempfield)," Dixon said. "It was intense."
This is a bit of a different season for the Black Knights, since they have had to reload after fielding a senior-laden team that won the L-L League title last season. That, however, is not to diminish the effort by the Comets, who have seen their returning players mature and become more skilled and who have added skill from newcomers.
"We're more experienced but the other thing is, we believe," said Penn Manor coach Chris Telesco. "Confidence goes a long way when you realize that, we're a team and we're good."
That said, the Black Knights (4-1 Section One, 4-1 overall) took the first game by going on a 6-1 run late in the game. Hempfield junior outside hitter Garrett Dimm led the charge. He finished with a match-high 21 kills.
Manor (5-0, 6-0) fended off a late Hempfield charge to win the second game but Hempfield took game three with a Dimm kill from the right pin.
The Black Knights took a 19-16 lead in the fourth game on a spike by Ben Ault and at that point were six points from winning the match. But a 9-4 run by the Comets, led by Dixon, Weber and Devon Reis, squared the match at 2-2.
"When we passed well, we could play," said Hempfield coach Mike Vogel. "But Penn Manor out-passed us and out-served us. We didn't serve well enough to get them out of their rhythm."
The Comets took control of the fifth game, which has a 15-point cap, when Weber went back serve. Manor's 7-4 lead was soon 11-4 with Weber putting a little more oomph in those serves.
"Go hard or go home, that's what I was thinking," Weber said. "I was hitting it as hard as I can, with control."
Telesco likes the fact that his team has flown under the radar a bit this season. But after Thursday's win, the Comets have wins against four teams (Lower Dauphin, Pennridge, Dallastown, Hempfield) currently in the PVCA's top 10 teams in the state.
"This win goes a long way but this is just one match," he said. "We'll see this team again and they will be just as good if not better. We're going to have just as big a fight."
Mark your calendars: Penn Manor at Hempfield, May 8.