UNIVERSITY PARK — One was pretty fun, but Saturday was twice as nice for the Northeastern boys’ volleyball team.
For the second consecutive season the Bobcats met Ambridge in the PIAA Class AA championship match, with the same team walking away with the trophy.
Behind 15 kills, three blocks, three digs and two aces from Reese Devilbiss, Northeastern prevailed 25-20, 25-15, 25-14 at Rec Hall for its second straight title and third in program history.
“It’s even better,” said senior setter Luke Braswell, a Penn State recruit next season who gave out 32 assists to go with five digs and three blocks. “Last year, it was fun, first time doing it, and now to repeat it and do it again … it’s an amazing feeling.”
Braswell plans to take a year off taking classes at Harrisburg Area Community College before enrolling at Penn State with a partial scholarship with the Nittany Lions, and he had plenty of options for running the Bobcat offense.
Philip White added nine kills, Matt Hollinger had nine kills and Casey Winand had five kills.
“This team is amazing,” Braswell said. “We have a lot of amazing attackers. It makes my job very easy when I have a solid, balanced attack when I have five guys to set the ball and know I can get a kill out of all of then. It makes my job very easy.”
The biggest hammer came from Devilbiss, however. The sophomore was on fire in the third set with seven kills, two aces and a block.
“Devilbiss — he is the man, there’s no doubt,” coach Matt Wilson said. “All season he’s had to make the adjustment, what I call the collegiate, almost, adjustment where everyone’s keying on you. He’s a sophomore and he went through some growing pains as a sophomore, but evidenced by today’s situation, he has been spectacular all season.”
After a tight first set, Northeastern (22-2) was in control the rest of the match the rest of the way.
It spoiled the first match on the Rec Hall court for Lee Smith, who will join the Nittany Lions next season.
“No one likes to be in second place,” Smith said. “Northeastern came out and played. I don’t think we did at all, really. We were in that first set, but losing that, that really hit a downer on us inside everyone’s head.”
Smith finished with 12 kills, but the Ambridge (15-3) offense was otherwise neutralized, with just six kills each for Brandon Buck and Dan Zejac.
“We kept trying to get in our game, and they kept stopping us with everything we were doing,” coach Glenn Freed said. “That’s why they’re the state championship. They’re such a great team.”
The Bobcats overcame a number of injuries during the season and living with the target on their backs of being the defending champions, but for a second straight season they got to enjoy the season finale.
“It’s harder,” Wilson said of repeating. “The first one takes longer, but to want to want to come back, even from a coaching standpoint, I would say wanting to wake up and wanting to be great is a hard job. You can have one or two that want to do that, but to have an entire program that wants to do it every single day … that’s pretty special.”