Posted/Updated: 6/12/2024 11:55:34 AM

Parkland sweeps Central York in PIAA boys' volleyball semifinals 

Shelly Stallsmith
York Daily Record


It's never easy to reach a state final.

Especially when a team has to get through the defending champion. Central York learned that the hard way on Tuesday night at Cocalico High School.

The undefeated Panthers, ranked No. 2 in the state going into the Class 3A semifinal, never found their groove against No. 3 Parkland. The Trojans led the entire first game and most of the other two to sweep the Panthers 25-21, 25-19, 27-25.

"Parkland played a phenomenal match, man," Central York co-coach John Feldmann said. "They just would not budge one inch. We knew that they were a great team, they return their entire starting lineup, aside from one player, from the state championship team. That goes a long way."

Three days after narrowly defeating a team that was fueled by one dominating player, the Panthers ran into a Parkland team with numerous weapons. A half-dozen Trojans combined for more than 30 kills, but their offense wasn't the only thing that hurt Central.

"They blocked phenomenally," Feldmann said. "Our coverage wasn't quite where, you know, we wanted it to be tonight, and they made the plays necessary to win the game. Whenever we would get a couple points or a little bit of momentum, we couldn't make the play needed to string those points together. We have an absolute ton of respect for them, and they went out and earned it tonight."

Luke Smith led Parkland's roof brigade, finishing with a combined 10 solo and double blocks. He and fellow middle blocker Brady Hayward often paired with outside hitters Alex Wilby, Josh Nation and Owen Rodgers to send balls straight back to the Central players who hit them.

When they needed to go on the offensive, the Trojans often turned to Nation. He finished with a dozen kills from both sides of the 3-meter line.

"He's a great player," Central co-coach Landon Sparks said. "He hits line, he hits cross and he doesn't really roll the ball. He's cranking the ball from the 10-foot line, 13-foot line, 14-foot line, it doesn't matter. He's cranking balls and getting us out of system."

The Panthers tried to take advantage when Nation rotated across the back row, but Will Stiles didn't hesitate to set him there. The Trojans also fed Smith and Rodgers, who combined for 13 kills.

Parkland led by as many as five points several times in the first game. The Panthers were able to cut into the lead behind hits and blocks by seniors Christian Bucks and Greg Guidinger. As soon as they pulled to within a point, the Trojans pulled off a crushing block and gained back the momentum.

"It was pretty back and forth, back and forth," Bucks said. "It's just at the end of the day, they got more runs than us. They were a really solid team and it's hard when you're going against that."

The second game was a continuation of the first, except the Panthers stayed a point or two ahead of the Trojans until Nation's back-row kill gave Parkland the lead for good at 13-12.

With their backs against the wall, Central rallied from five down behind hits from Bucks, Patrick Siewert and John He and some unforced errors by Parkland. A crushing roof block by Siewert and Guidinger pulled the Panthers into a 14-all tie.

Much like the first two games, whenever Central gained an edge, Parkland countered with a crushing block to regain control. First it was Smith and Rodgers who pulled the Trojans into a 21-all tie. Then it was Rodgers and Hayward who evened the score at 23 and Hayward's solo block evened things at 24.

Ultimately it was Nation who put the last spike on Central's season. His spike down the Panthers' block hit the floor and Parkland was moving on.

Siewert led the Panthers' attack with 10 kills, followed closely by Guidinger with nine and Bucks with seven.

Siewert, John He and setter Lance Shaffer are among the nearly dozen players who will return next year for their senior seasons. But for nine of their teammates, Tuesday's semifinal was their last in a Central uniform.

Guidinger will hang up his volleyball shoes for basketball shoes at Loyola College. Bucks will trade flying on the volleyball court for continue his certification toward becoming a commercial pilot.

"I'm going to Florida in August to go to flight school," Bucks said. "I'm going to Florida Tech. I might play club beach volleyball down there. We'll see."

This was the second straight year Central York was eliminated in the state semifinals.

For coaches who experienced the thrill of winning state titles for Central, this loss hit hard because of the special group of seniors.

"We're incredibly grateful for our nine seniors, and just how much they've poured into this team, into the program," Feldmann said. "They've navigated some tough stuff. A year-and-a-half ago we were meeting, trying to just work through the mourning of a loved one who passed away."

Two months before the 2023 season was set to begin, longtime coach Todd Goodling died after a lengthy illness. Feldmann said this group of seniors bought in a "team-first mentality and represented the team, the program, Todd, each one of us with the utmost character.

"We could not be more proud of them and just how they conducted themselves and their pursuit of the goals that they've set for themselves."

Questions/Comments? Contact Scott Trumbauer