MINERSVILLE — Trailing by a seemingly insurmountable margin and on the brink of being swept out of the state semifinals, Holy Redeemer had to know its dream of a state championship was about to vanish.
That didn’t matter to Jeremy Myslowski and the rest of the Royals.
Instead of packing it in, Redeemer packed one more mighty punch before falling to Northeastern, 25-13, 25-14, 25-17 in a PIAA volleyball semifinal match at Minersville High School.
In a state Eastern championship match filled with smashing hits, Myslowski delivered one more for the Royals with an emphatic cross-court kill. That was followed by an infraction on Northeastern. Suddenly, a 24-15 Northern lead in the third game was sliced to seven points.
“Even though we knew our run was probably over, we were bringing some high energy into the postseason,” Myslowski said. “We weren’t going to give that up.”
Instead, a large Northeastern contingent that rose in unison while gleefully shouting in anticipation of the point that would send the 20-1 Bobcats into Saturday’s state championship had to sit for a bit.
“We’re not going to roll over,” Holy Redeemer coach Jack Kablick said. “If you’re going to do that, you might as well stay home.”
Ultimately, though, Northeastern’s Phillip White pounded home the match-ending point with an crunching spike, making Redeemer’s last stand at states short-lived.
That was the last of many hard hits that took 16-2 Redeemer out of the state tournament one step before the state final.
“There’s no shame in losing to Northeastern,” said Holy Redeemer hitter Brendan Leahigh, who finished with a team-high eight kills. “They’re hot right now, they’ve been hot. We lost to a better team today, no two ways about it.”
Northeastern made that clear from the start.
Riding the powerful return game based around big hitters Stephen Braswell, Casey Winand, Reese Devilbiss and Malik Jefferson, the Bobcats dominated the action in the first two games, winning by 12 and then 10 points. They used the leaping ability of Jefferson to deal with Redeemer’s giant 6-7 middle hitters Mike Prociak and Mike Morrison, holding Prociak to seven kills and Morrison to four.
“We played our brand of ball tonight,” Braswell said.
That included plenty of pounding, led by senior Stephen Braswell’s match-high 12 kills. But it was the setting of his freshman brother Luke Braswell, who finished with 22 assists, five kills and a block, that really flustered Redeemer.
“They had a setter we couldn’t read,” Kablick said. “The setter was maybe the best I’ve seen in the last three, four years. Their gameplan was obviously to stay away from our two 6-7s, get it to the outside and just pound it. They did a good job of that.”
The Royals tried to pound right back.
Prociak made three of his kills during the third game and Myslowski added two as Redeemer held and early 5-4 lead and pulled within 13-9 on Morrison’s dink midway through the final set.
“They brought some heat back at us, too,” Stephen Braswell said. “It was just kind of go out there and have fun with it.”
In the end, though, the fun run Redeemer put together while becoming the first District 2 team since Tunkhannock’s 1972 state title team to reach the PIAA semifinal round came to an end. Despite switching strategy from pure power hits to dinks and dunks, nothing seemed to swing the tide for the Royals.
“They definitely started picking things up,” Leahigh said. “We tried changing things up. Then we kind of went back to swinging and we kept getting blocked.”
That doesn’t mean a season-ending loss will stand in the way of a memorable season for the Royals.
“I’m glad we went out playing our game,” Myslowski said. “We played the best we could. That’s all you can ever ask for.”
Holy Redeemer: Brendan Leahigh 8 kills, Mike Prociak 7 kills, Jeremy Myslowski 16 assists, 6 digs; Northeastern: Stephan Braswell 12 kills, Luke Braswell 22 assists, five kills, Reese Devilbiss 6 kills.