Central Bucks East captured the District 1 3A title with a sweep of North Penn. Photos provided courtesy of Jon Sklut. Check back for a gallery of photos.
Central Bucks East 3, North Penn 0 (25-12, 25-13, 25-16)
HOLLAND – The cameras had just stopped clicking on the traditional captains-with-trophy photo when Dylan Colbert lightly kissed the trophy declaring his Central Bucks East volleyball team the District 1 3A champions. It was the program’s first district title since 1989.
“I can’t tell you how many times I visualized this, especially when I was younger,” the Patriots’ senior captain said. “When I was a freshman, I was just trying to work my way up, getting to where I wanted to go.
“Last year here (the Patriots were the district runner-up) – it all comes full circle. It was special for me, it was special for us.”
The Patriots – who fell in three sets to Council Rock North in last year’s district title match – didn’t just win Thursday’s title match. They made a definitive statement in their sweep of the Knights.
In a preview of things to come, they opened up a 10-3 lead before fans had even settled in their seats on their way to a 25-12 win in the opening set.
The second set was more of the same. The Knights trailed by just five, 16-11, after a block at the net, but a Colbert kill ignited a 9-2 Patriot run to close out the set. In the third set, the two teams were deadlocked 6-6, but the Patriots led 15-8 after back-to-back-to-back kills by Christian Wolf, Steven Storm – a first contact kill, and Jacob LaBouliere, prompting the Knights to call a timeout.
A block at the net gave the Patriots a 16-8 lead. The Knights battled, receiving kills from Zach Jayes, Michael Wang and Kevin Abraham late in the match, but there was no stopping the Patriots. A kill by Colbert for match point put an exclamation point on the decisive win.
“We played very well this match,” said Storm, the team’s setter. “It was crazy. We literally connected in every single way possible. We played an outstanding match.
“We didn’t go into this thinking we were going to roll them. We came in thinking, ‘Stay calm. We know they’re going to have a lot of energy, just play our game,’ and that’s exactly what we did. We came in here, got our work done and won the district. This feels amazing.”
Listening to Colbert tell it, that cohesiveness didn’t just happen.
“I think my biggest takeaway from the finals last year and throughout the whole season – when we were winning last year, it was because the whole team was clicking on the same page,” the all-state outside hitter said. “The takeaway was just - the number one priority needs to be everybody playing together.
“This year we were able to execute that to a higher degree because we worked on it all year. It’s fantastic. We’ve come so far together. It’s big for us.”
The Patriots’ camaraderie extends well beyond the volleyball court.
“I just think it’s been a lot of us bonding and becoming friends before teammates,” Colbert said. “I think that’s what it all comes down to.
“Hanging out together outside of practice, going the extra mile to make sure everyone’s doing all right all the time - that stuff is huge. It’s the small things that go a long way throughout the season.”
“The majority of our players are juniors with the exception of Dylan,” Storm said. “We have a great bond, and even with Dylan, we have a great bond in school, out of school, out of practice.”
Last year’s district runner-up finish, according to Storm, was an important stepping stone for the program.
“Last year was kind of a developing year for us as a program, and it bonded us together,” the junior captain said. “We had great players like Carter (Haban), who we definitely miss, but last year coming into this year with how young we were – it just made it so easy to transition from last year to this year.”
Coach Rob Minschwaner knew this could be the Patriots’ year to finish the job they started last year.
“I thought we had a great shot,” the Patriots’ coach said. “We had a great core of kids last year. We had Dylan back.
“A lot of times you’re able to take one guy out, and no team could really take Dylan out of the match because everyone else on the court can put the ball away. It makes a huge difference.”
North Penn coach Ryan Genova tipped his hat to the Patriots.
“They don’t kill you with their serves, they kill you with their side-out game,” the Knights’ coach said. “It’s just pass, set, kill, and that’s high level volleyball. They will put a serve in, and they put up a big disciplined block, and if you get past the block, they’re going to dig you. Their libero (Ryan Figus) is very quick. It’s an all-around fantastic team. I think they’re going to be one of the better teams in the state.
“You always want to make it more competitive than it was, but that’s not what happened, and you can’t change it. We have to keep it in perspective. They’re going to have their takeaways and we’re going to have our takeaways from tonight. We’ll reconvene on Monday. It will be a new week and a new life.”
Both teams will be in action in Tuesday’s opening round of the PIAA 3A State Tournament.
“Every single game that we have where we know we have to step up – that’s just going to bring the team together further,” Colbert said. “Hopefully, we come out with the same fire and execution we had tonight and build some momentum and see where we go from there.
“I’m sure our opponent will be very strong, but you just have to fight, see what happens.”
EXTRA POINTS: Colbert was all but unstoppable at the net, finishing with 19 kills to go along with seven digs and one service ace. LaBouliere added seven kills and five digs. Wolfe had three kills, four block assists and three digs while Storm had 30 assists, two kills, two block assists and four digs. Thomas Gallagher-Teske had two kills, two block assists and two digs. Figus led the defense with 18 digs while Jack Miller had four digs. CJ Dalby had two block assists and one dig.