Manheim Central will continue its quest to make a return trip to the PIAA Class 2A volleyball championship match, when the Barons square off against York Suburban in a state semifinal clash on Tuesday.
Previewing that Final Four showdown, plus more state-volleyball news and notables ...
THE MATCH: District Three champ Manheim Central Barons (18-2) vs. District Three runner-up York Suburban Trojans (16-3), Tuesday, 6 p.m. at Red Lion High School.
WINNER GETS: District Seven champ Ambridge or District 10 champ Meadville in the PIAA Class 2A title match, Saturday at 11 a.m. at Penn State's Pegula Ice Arena. ... Ambridge vs. Meadville is Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Slippery Rock High School in Butler County.
REMATCH: Central blanked Suburban 3-0 in the D3 finals on May 24 behind Mason Nissley, who pounded out 24 kills, Jeremiah Zimmerman, who set up 41 assists, and Brandyn Musser, who had eight digs to spark the defense. It was the Barons' first D3 championship -- one year after Central fell to Northeastern York in the district title match. ... Suburban outlasted Central 3-2 in a nonleague clash back on April 11 in York, so the series is 1-1 this season, making Tuesday's skirmish a rubber match -- with a trip to the state finals hanging in the balance. ... Suburban also clipped Central in the 2017 D3-2A semifinals, so there is plenty of recent postseason history between these clubs.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Central, the three-time reigning L-L Section Two champ, and 2017 and 2018 league runner-up, cruised past a pair of Philadelphia-area clubs, drubbing District 12 third-seed Archbishop Wood 3-0 in the first round before blanking District 12 runner-up Palumbo 3-0 in the quarterfinals. It was the second year in a row Central KO'd Palumbo in states. ... Coach Craig Dietrich and his Barons are allowing just 12 points against per set in two PIAA matches, and three times they've held teams to less than 10 points in a game. ... Coach Oliver Good and his Suburban squad also have a pair of 3-0 victories, over District 12 winner Lansdale Catholic in the first round and against District Two champ Holy Redeemer in the quarterfinals. The Trojans are allowing 15 points against per game in states, and they've had to conquer a pair of district champs to gain a spot in the semifinals.
PIAA HISTORY: Central was in last year's 2A state finale, where the Barons fell to D3 rival Northeastern York by a 3-1 count. It was Central's first appearance in a PIAA title match. ... Suburban is angling for its second trip to the state finals; the Trojans fell to Bethlehem Catholic 3-1 in the 2012 2A PIAA finale.
SPIKES: Central is riding a five-match winning streak, since a 3-0 setback against Hempfield in the L-L League semifinals. "We've come a long way since that Hempfield match," Barons' hitter Darien Colburn noted. "But I still don't feel like we've played our best match yet. But we're getting closer and closer." ... Central's lone non-tournament losses this spring were against Hempfield in the league semifinals, and that nonleague matchup against Suburban in April. ... Nissley is Central's all-time kills leader; the reigning L-L Section Two MVP is approaching 1,500 career spikes. His future roommate and teammate at Messiah is Suburban all-star hitter Nate Bowman, who had four blocks against the Barons in the D3 finale. But Central held him relatively in check in the swinging department, and will need a similar defensive effort on Tuesday. ... Central must defend Bowman, Declan Ridings and Luke Babinchak at the net; Babinchak had 10 kills in the D3 finale meeting, and Suburban's glue kids are setter Noah Chojnack and libero Harrison Gettle; Chojnack had 16 assists and Gettle had 12 digs in the D3 title match vs. Central. ... Keep an eye on Barons' hitter Ben Wolford, who left Saturday's match against Palumbo with an apparent ankle injury. Central will certainly need him; Nissley and Musser usually garner the most defensive attention at the net, so Wolford is a key cog in Central's air attack. ... Central is No. 1 and Suburban is No. 3 in the latest PAVBCA 2A state rankings. Meadville is No. 2 and Ambridge, the fourth state semifinalist, is No. 5.
QUOTABLE: "I think we're going to see a different Suburban team," Dietrich said. "They're angry and they're upset, and this will be their chance to come back and get us when it hurts the most. We'll have to bring it."
DIGS: The PIAA 3A bracket is also down to its Final Four, with a pair of juicy semifinal matches on tap for Tuesday. In the East bracket, D3 champ Central York will square off against mega in-county rival Northeastern York, the D3 third-seed, at Red Lion at 7:30 p.m. -- right after Central and Suburban tangle in a 2A semifinal. ... Northeastern York is the six-time reigning 2A state champ, and the Bobcats are up in 3A this spring, looking to make it seven state banners in a row. ... In the West bracket, it'll be a WPIAL finals rematch when District Seven champ North Allegheny takes on District Seven runner-up Bethel Park at 7 p.m. at Penn Hills High School in Pittsburgh. North Allegheny (21-0 in non-tournament action) is the only undefeated team left standing in the state. ... Don't forget to check out North Allegheny's jam-packed website here. ... Note to D3 volleyball fans: You might want to consider arriving early to Red Lion on Tuesday for that must-see doubleheader. Central-Suburban is a beauty, and there's never any love lost when Central York and Northeastern York knock heads. This also means District Three is guaranteed a state finalist in both brackets on Saturday at Penn State. And what a spring for York County volleyball with three state semifinalists, right? ... In the PAVBCA 3A state rankings, Central York is No. 1, North Allegheny is No. 2, Northeastern York is No. 3 and Bethel Park is No. 7.