WILKES-BARRE – Shayne McGrady admits it.
His Coughlin Crusaders executed the game plan to almost perfection. The head coach wanted to make sure Holy Redeemer star middle Mike Prociak didn’t dominate.
Check that off the list. The 6-foot-8 senior was held to nine kills.
John Carr, on the other hand, turned out to be a major dilemma.
The promising sophomore shined brightly under the big lights, racking up a match-high 13 kills and dominating the middle as the top-seeded Royals held off Coughlin, 3-0, in the District 2 Class 2A boys volleyball semifinals.
Match scores were 25-14, 25-22 and 25-22.
Redeemer, the fourth-ranked Double-A team in the state, advances into the championship to face off with No. 3 seed North Pocono, a straight-set victor over No. 7 seed Nanticoke Area in the other semi. All four of Tuesday’s semifinalists advance into the state bracket next week.
“Last time we played, we didn’t have an answer for (Mike) Gatusky. This time. I thought we did a nice job with Prociak and a fair job with Gatusky. We just didn’t have any answer for John Carr,” McGrady said. “He did a nice job.”
Carr is kind of a sleeping giant.
He doesn’t get much ink because of Prociak, an all-state selection and Division I recruit.
The sophomore is still trying to work through varsity volleyball at one of the best programs in the state.
But don’t forget about him. If you do, it’s like playing with fire. And you know what happens there.
“I was pretty prepared for this one,” the sophomore middle said. “I am extremely happy, especially with our quick game and the other offenses that we run. It worked really great. Mike has helped me so much this year. He’s helped with some pointers about hitting and all these techniques to make me a better volleyball player.”
Case in point, the opening set.
McGrady couldn’t have asked for a better start. His Crusaders jumped out to a 9-4 lead, a position Redeemer probably didn’t find itself in too many times in league play – starting at a five-point deficit.
The Royals’ response? Carr had five kills to spark a massive, 21-5 run.
The end result? A 25-14 win.
“We didn’t say anything to them because we didn’t want to put any added pressure on them,” Redeemer head coach John Kablick said of the five-point deficit. “We’ve been through it before, playing in four pretty tough tournaments. We’ve been in the situation before, and the boys don’t panic. They just try to put two-, three-point runs together at a time and get back in.”
The Crusaders held strong in the final two sets, down 24-22 in both the second and third. That’s the closest the No. 4 seed got.
A Prociak spike ended the second, and Carr found an open spot in the middle of the court to seal the straight-set win.
Carr and junior Mike Gatusky combined for 11 kills in the third set. Gatusky also had another strong showing, finishing with 12 kills and four digs.
“I thought that we game planned perfectly because Prociak didn’t kill us,” McGrady said. “I thought we hung in there. There are moments where we tend to shoot ourselves in the foot and we did. Redeemer played really well tonight. This might be the game where they missed the least amount of serves. They made us earn points. They didn’t give us any freebies, and we gave some away.”
Danny Sales and Rob Zbierski combined for 17 kills, while Redeemer’s Mike Conlon had a match-high 27 assists.
“North Pocono is going to be tough,” Kablick said. “They are a well-coached team with really good hitters. They are going to hit at us, and we are going to attack them. The team that makes the least amount of unforced errors will leave with the district championship.”
Holy Redeemer 3, Coughlin 0
Coughlin: Robert Zbierski 7 kills, 2 blocks; Danny Sales 10 kills, 11 assists, 2 digs; Tyler Davis 6 kills, 2 blocks
Holy Redeemer: John Carr 13 kills, 3 blocks; Mike Gatusky 12 kills, 4 digs; Mike Conlon 27 assists; Alex Kotch 14 service points.