WILKES-BARRE — The gold and silver medals were left dangling from the necks of two teams that played a gallant, five-set match in the finals.
But who walked out of Holy Redeemer High School wearing which colors was really a tale of two other body parts.
Delaware Valley pointed to its heart.
Wyoming Valley West languished over tired legs.
And because of both, Delaware Valley placed a fifth straight District 2 boys volleyball title upon its head.
Team captain Jackson Shafer killed three of the final five points Monday, including a title-clinching spike that lifted Delaware Valley over Valley West, 25-14, 23-25, 25-21, 17-25, 15-11 in the District 2 Class 3A championship match.
“Heart,” Shafer said. “Heart really played a big role in it. We come together and trust each other. We just have such a close team.”
In the end, Valley West had a tired team.
The Spartans first wrestled away a district semifinal match from Hazleton Area, 25-16, 22-25, 25-20, 25-18 at Holy Redeemer, then came back 30 minutes later to play top-seeded Delaware Valley in the title match.
“Fatigue is a factor that came into play,” Valley West coach R.J. Tomascik said. “That’s not making excuses. We were in our ninth set, to the fifth for them. Guys were getting cramps, they’re jumping on tired legs after nine games. They (the Warriors) had those couple extra points in them and we didn’t.”
That didn’t stop the Spartans from trying.
After Logan Gallagher served six straight points — including five aces — to give Delaware Valley a fairly easy victory in the first game, Valley West recovered quickly.
Spartans captain Joey Burridge slammed home three kills in the second game as the Spartans pulled even, then the night went back and forth.
Mark Piotrowski made four kills in the third game as the Warriors went up 2-1, but Peter Schol made three blocks and a kill and Giacomo Rossi came up with a block and a couple crafty dinks in the fourth game as the Spartans pulled even again.
“We knew they were a good team,” Shafer said. “We did expect a battle.”
In the end, the Warriors were ready for it.
The Spartans bolted out to a 4-1 lead in the deciding game when Rossi served three points, including an ace and went up 5-2 when Rossi added a dink.
But Shafer’s kill and three service points put Delaware Valley on top, 6-5, and the teams spent the next 20 minutes in a tug-of-war, with neither able to find more than a two-point cushion.
That’s when Shafer struck.
He reached back for a kill to give the Warriors a 12-10 advantage, then answered Donovan Gaffney’s kill for Valley West with another kill that put Delaware Valley two points away from the title.
Tom Raniero followed with a serve that wasn’t returned, and Shafer ended the suspense — and the championship marathon — by blistering a return that bounded off a diving Spartan and out of bounds to send the Warriors into celebration.
“It means a lot,” Shafer said. “Our serving was good the first game, I think we came out with a lot of energy. In the second and third games, when things weren’t going well, we just kind of fell apart. We stayed together. And usually, when you have teammates that always have your back, that helps.
“Now I have two under my belt and this is the fourth straight for the school.”
The Spartans, meanwhile, believe they’re getting closer to one after dropping the Class 3A district title match to powerful Delaware Valley for the second straight year.
”To go 6-6, make the playoffs, win a playoff game and go right to the brink in the district championship game is such a wonderful experience,” Tomascik said. “It just came down to those last few points.”
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski