LEHMAN TWP. – Both teams were going to the state tournament regardless of the outcome, but don’t tell that to Matt Winters.
The Nanticoke Area junior viewed Thursday’s District 2 Class 2A third-place volleyball match in one way.
“This was our district championship,” he said. “This was our moment.”
The outside hitter sure stole the show.
The junior elevated his game to another level, recording the final two points of the match as the Trojans held off Coughlin, 3-1, at Lake-Lehman High School.
Match scores were 25-21, 25-17, 20-25 and 25-23.
Both teams will most likely hit the highway once the PIAA brackets are released. Nanticoke will square off with the champion of District 12, while Coughlin faces off with the top seed from the Districts 3-11 subregional.
“The emotion was great. The kids were able to stay up this whole match even if we were down a few points. It was great to see,” Nanticoke head coach Debbie Gavin said. “Now, we’ll get ready for the next round. I still think we have a nice well-rounded team. We just have to control our passes. That’s going to be important.”
Gavin saw the look on their faces on the way home after a loss to North Pocono in the district semifinals.
It was a look of dejection after a match where the Trojans were just flat and the passing just wasn’t there.
All she needed to see was one point in the third-place match to see where her team was at.
Emotion. Passion. Promise.
The excitement of having another opportunity.
There was slapping of the court, and plenty of high-fives to go around.
“We felt that we had something to prove,” Winters said. “We felt that we let ourselves down in the last game. It was great to play Coughlin again. We lost to them early in the season, and so it was nice to get another chance at them. You have to contain yourself with the emotion. We were able to just play within ourselves.”
It was Coughlin that appeared flat.
Two days after battling state-ranked Holy Redeemer, the Crusaders just didn’t have the emotion.
The passing wasn’t there. Court communication was off. And there was no energy.
After dropping the first set 25-21, the Crusaders were their own worst enemy in the second – committing nine attack errors, and serving three balls out of bounds. And giving up those 12 points hurt, as the Trojans closed the set on a 14-6 run for a 2-0 lead.
“I don’t know if they expected that kind of blocking from us,” Gavin said. “We were close to beating them during the regular season. They tried to take our setter out of the play at times, but Eddie (Lutkowski) is smart and he’s fast. He was able to adjust.”
Coughlin dominated the third, leading by seven at one point, but couldn’t muster the same energy in the final stanza.
The seventh-seeded Trojans, behind Winters and Robert Burke, raced out to a 14-9 lead. While Coughlin responded with a run of its own, taking a 23-22 lead late, Nanticoke and their junior hitter had the final say.
A soft kill by sophomore Brent Piontkowski tied the score at 23 before back-to-back spikes by Winters sealed the 3-1 victory.
“I knew that I had to step up,” Winters said.
Winters finished with 14 kills, while Burke had 10. Coughlin sophomore Rob Zbierski also had 14 kills to pace the Crusaders, while senior Tyler Davis added 12 spikes.
* * *
Nanticoke 3, Coughlin 1
Nanticoke Leaders: Matt Winters 14 kills; Robert Burke 10 kills; Eddie Lukowski 33 assists.
Coughlin Leaders: Rob Zbierski 14 kills; Tyler Davis 12 kills; Danny Sales 9 kills, 1 ace; Kenny Werkheiser 4 aces.