There was a fantastic race in Lancaster-Lebanon League boys volleyball Section 1 action last spring, with Warwick and Hempfield duking it out all the way to the finish line — and beyond.
It took a 1-match playoff to decide the section championship, and the Warriors won that, unseating the Black Knights atop the Section 1 leaderboard.
Hempfield got some revenge about a week later, topping Warwick for its 23rd L-L League tournament title. Still, it was an awesome race, as Hempfield, Warwick and Penn Manor all went to the District 3 bracket.
How will this season shape up? Unfortunately, the big questions right now surround when spring sports will get the thumbs-up, with Gov. Tom Wolf and the PIAA mandating no school and no athletics because of coronavirus concerns.
While everyone waits for the green light, here’s a look at the Section 1 teams, which are listed alphabetically:
CEDAR CREST FALCONS
COACH: Monica Sheaffer (1st season on the job; she took over for Rodney Weber, who stepped down after one season on Cedar Crest’s bench).
LAST YEAR: It was another program-building season for the Falcons, who are now on their third coach in as many years, as Cedar Crest tries for some firmer footing in L-L League circles.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: OH Reilly Thomas.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: MB Noah Iceman, OH Alan Yang, S Logan Wise, OH Judah Wise.
DIGS: The skill is there, Sheaffer said. Now it’s a matter of putting it all together and seeing positive results on the floor. … Having Logan Wise back at setter is certainly a good start, and the hitting trio of Iceman, Yang and Judah Wise all know their way around a front row; Iceman had a breakout season a year ago as one of the Falcons’ go-to swingers and blockers up front. … Consistency, Sheaffer says, is key for the Falcons: Serving, passing, doing the little things. She’s been preaching those things so far in the preseason.
QUOTABLE: “This is my first season being a head coach for a team, so I’m looking forward to watching these boys grow and learn,” Sheaffer said. “They are very persistent and determined to improve. It’s refreshing to see the seniors motivate and set great examples to the underclassmen — not only what a leader looks like, but also a player that is both coachable and willing to continue to learn.”
CONESTOGA VALLEY BUCKSKINS
COACH: Blake Youndt (6th season in Buckskin Country).
LAST YEAR: CV earned a fourth-place finish in Section 1, and fell to Section 2 champ Manheim Central 3-0 in the first round of the L-L League tournament.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: S Tanner Shertzer (first-team section all-star), OH Robby Krasinski (second-team section all-star), L Carlos Barbosa.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: OH Sawyer Shertzer, MH Jayden Rice, OH Jeremiah Pha, OH Charles Janvrin.
DIGS: That trio in the key-players-lost column will be missed — Shertzer was a glue kid, Barbosa cleaned up defensively, and Krasinski was a kill artist at the net — but Youndt is excited about this crew, calling it his most complete team in six years. … Youndt said his club’s top attributes are athleticism, attitude and work ethic — all good traits — but that he’s looking for some new team leaders to emerge, to show the way on the court.
QUOTABLE: “In six years of coaching, this feels like my most complete team, from starters to bench players, and we only have four seniors on the roster,” Youndt said. “We don’t have much of a drop off if someone or a couple of guys need to step onto the court. Our guys have been getting extra experience in the offseason playing club ball and USA volleyball in the winter, and we had 12-14 boys playing this past winter in their respective age groups.”
HEMPFIELD BLACK KNIGHTS
COACH: Mike Vogel (22nd season as head coach).
LAST YEAR: L-L League Section 1 runner-up (fell to Warwick 3-2 in a 1-match playoff for the section championship); L-L League tournament champions, for the 23rd time, with a victory over Warwick; fifth-place finish in the District 3 Class 3A tournament; fell in the first round of the PIAA Class 3A state tournament to North Allegheny and ended up 19-4 overall.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: MB Elliott De La Torre (first-team section all-star, District 3 all-star, all-state selection), OH Ben Crabtree (first-team section all-star, District 3 all-star), MB Aldin Lupic, L Adam Gallagher.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: OH Adam Brossman, OH Ian Crabtree, L Alex Drager (second-team section all-star), MH Ryan Givens (second-team section all-star), OH Owen Hanzelman (second-team section all-star), S Colson Hunt (first-team section all-star), MH Andrew Lewis, OH Grant Lorelli, S Hudson Smiley, L John Vogel.
DIGS: That’s quite a haul in the key-players-returning department for the Knights, who are set to return four section all-stars from last spring. That’s a heck of a nice start. … Brossman and Givens are vet hitters up front, Hanzelman is a multi-purpose player who covers a ton of ground, and Hempfield is in terrific shape in the back with Hunt and Drager returning to spark the setting, passing and defensive efforts. ... Vogel really likes his team’s makeup; he said all of his players can attack from every position on the court. … Hempfield’s only bugaboo lately has been injuries. This club must stay healthy if it wants to do damage. … Should be plenty of motivation here after Warwick ripped the Section 1 banner away last season. And with the amount of returning talent in Vogel’s huddle, you get the feeling these Knights are thinking big. Really big.
QUOTABLE: “We have the ability to attack from every position,” Vogel said. “And we’ll have to keep everyone healthy. I’m looking forward to watching the team improve each week.”
MANHEIM TOWNSHIP BLUE STREAKS
COACH: Mark Evans (1st season). And yes, that’s the same Mark Evans who coaches Township’s football team.
LAST YEAR: Now three years removed from winning the L-L League championship, the Streaks started a re-tooling period of sorts last spring, missing out on the postseason. Evans is hoping to get the program back on track.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: OH Tyler Vicidomini (first-team section all-star), S Zach Johnson (honorary section all-star, after missing most of the season while battling cancer).
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: OH Xavier Cedeno-Bravo, OH Anthony Deprees, OH Lazarus Dozier, MH Quinn McCarty, S Arnav Dixit, L Lemaire Jean.
DIGS: Rebuilding mode for the Streaks, who return just six players with varsity experience. Evans is also excited about newbie MH Vishal Winn, as he learns on the go as a first-year volleyball skipper. … After Jack Damiano stepped down after six years on Township’s bench, the school opened the coaching job three different times. That’s when Evans hopped in and immediately energized the program; he said 40 players arrived for tryouts, and he and assistant coach Steve Saunders kept 30 players in all — 14 varsity and 16 for JV.
QUOTABLE: “My goal is to grow the sport and get everyone here excited about it again,” Evans said. “I told them that I’ll be learning and growing along with them as we move forward. So far it’s been fun, and everyone is enthusiastic.”
McCASKEY RED TORNADO
COACH: Jeff Kindrew (3rd season in charge in Tornado Alley).
LAST YEAR: A fifth-place finish in the section — and no postseason trip — for McCaskey last spring.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: MH O.J. Cham Cham (second-team section all-star), S Gabriel Gonzalez.
DIGS: Tornado is just two years removed from a couple of playoff runs, and despite the loss of Cham Cham — a dominating force and matchup nightmare at the net — McCaskey is trying to get back to that level in a section loaded with landmines.
PENN MANOR COMETS
COACH: Chris Telesco (17th season at the helm).
LAST YEAR: The Comets went 8-4 in section play and 8-6 overall, including a 3-0 win over Lancaster Mennonite in the L-L League quarterfinals, a 3-0 setback against eventual runner-up Warwick in the L-L League semifinals, plus a 3-1 loss against Warwick in the first round of the District 3 Class 3A tourney.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: OH Matt Schaefer (second-team section all-star), MH Trenton Schlemmer (second-team section all-star), OH Dylan Zimmerman (first-team section all-star, District 3 all-star), L Hunter Enck (first-team section all-star), MH Austin Tomas.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: OH Bryce Julian, L Dom Roma, S Dylan Jacyszyn, OH Gavin Neuman.
DIGS: Maximizing the offense, Telesco said, is job No. 1 for his Comets, who lost some heavy duty swingers to graduation; Schaefer, Schlemmer and Zimmerman were all hit and block specialists, and Enck was dangerous in both rows. Those guys will be missed. … Telesco is preaching defense and the serve/receive game this time around, and with Roma returning at libero and Jacyszyn back setting, that’s certainly a good start in that department. … Julian and Neuman are vet hitters, and they’ll be key cogs in Telesco’s spread-it-around, maximize-the-offense scheme.
QUOTABLE: “Right now, we’re just looking forward to having the chance to play,” Telesco said. “These boys, especially our seniors, have worked so hard for this moment. We just want the chance to play.”
COACH: Nate Gajecki (18th season in the saddle in Lititz).
LAST YEAR: L-L League Section 1 champions (defeated Hempfield 3-2 in a 1-match playoff for the Warriors’ first section title since 1995); L-L League tournament runner-up (fell to Hempfield 3-1 in the finals); fell to State College 3-2 in the District 3 Class 3A quarterfinals; fell to Exeter 3-2 in the district consolation round and missed a trip to states, but finished up 18-4 overall.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: L Mateo Chacon (second-team section all-star), OH Foster Lobb (first-team section all-star, District 3 all-star), OH Chad Meeder (section MVP, first-team section all-star, District 3 all-star, all-state selection), OH Noah Miller (first-team section all-star, District 3 all-star), OH Trey Miller, MH Adam Kurtz (second-team section all-star).
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: S Connor Baer (second-team section all-star), Kam Brenneman, Ryan Charles, Jacob Lobb.
DIGS: Graduation night was not kind to the Warriors, as five league all-stars — including Meeder, the jumping-jack Section 1 MVP — sashayed across the stage. Still, there are plenty of good vibes around this program, which is coming off one of its most successful seasons ever. … Baer is back; he’s a steady server and defensive stalwart in the back, and he should be a terrific big-brother type to the newbies. … Yes, there’s another Lobb in the program; goodbye Foster — and his acrobatic leaping ability at the net — and hello, Jacob, who saw some varsity rotation time in crunch-time matches last spring. … Should be plenty of motivation here as Warwick tries to defend its Section 1 title — with bull’s-eyes on their backs this time around — and get over the D3 hurdle and make the PIAA bracket.
QUOTABLE: “We’re working hard to get back to the District 3 Class 3A tournament,” Gajecki said. “So far I’ve been impressed with the team’s defensive play, and ability to execute on offense. If we continue to improve each day, and learn to work as a team, we should complete the goal of returning to a league and district playoff run.”