WILKES-BARRE — One month ago, Noah Jackson saw his scholastic volleyball career come to an end inside the Holy Redeemer gymnasium. It was the second time the Crestwood senior left there with a loss as the Comets were swept in the regular season by the Royals.
Friday, the senior attacker finally left the Redeemer court with a victory in his pocket.
Jackson recorded the final three points of the fifth set, and teammate Luke Nealon of Holy Redeemer had a match-high 23 kills as the West squad held on for a 3-2 victory over the East in the annual Wyoming Valley Conference senior match.
Set scores were 25-21, 20-25, 25-14, 20-25 and 15-7.
The West team, coached by Redeemer’s Jack Kablick, included members of the Royals, Crestwood and North Pocono. The East team, led by Berwick’s Sarah Warner, were comprised of athletes from the Bulldogs, Delaware Valley, Nanticoke Area and Hazleton Area.
“It was great to have a chance to play with the Redeemer kids because they are some of the best players in the league. To finish with three straight points is a special feeling. You dream of ending the all-star game the right way,” Jackson said.
Fire and passion.
There’s no denying the intensity level of both sides. And if there was any question about how important winning the senior game was, just ask Nealon.
The Redeemer middle just saw his season come to an end last week in Berks County, losing in the state quarterfinals to Manheim Central.
“After we lost last weekend, I knew that it wouldn’t be my last game because there was still this senior game,” Nealon said. “I was telling these guys that I didn’t want to end my season with a loss. I really wanted to leave the gym with a victory.”
It was the kind of match one who followed the Wyoming Valley Conference season would expect after a quick peek at the rosters.
On the West, three District 2 Class 2A playoff squads.
And the East? a pair of 2A playoff teams and the district’s Class 3A titlist.
“You can see the chemistry starting to form on both sides by the end of the match,” Kablick said. “There was good talent, and it was split up pretty well. It showed in the end, going five sets. I think everyone that came had a good time, and that’s the most important thing.”
And it was back-and-forth most of the night.
A short run with NP’s James Ildefonso serving broke open a 20-20 tie in the opening set and gave the West a 1-0 lead.
Five kills in the second set by DV’s Tyler Smith enabled the East to pull out a 25-20 win in the second set.
After splitting the third and fourth stanzas, it set up a race to 15 in the final match of 2017.
The West jumped out to a 3-0 lead to start behind the serves of Redeemer libero Mike Mohutsky, but the East got it back to a 5-5 tie – thanks to several blocks by Berwick’s Dylan Michael and a cross-court spike by Nanticoke’s Josh Baranowski.
That’s when the West took command.
With Crestwood’s Kenny Brush serving, the West took advantage of some East attack errors and got two kills from Nealon to open up a 10-5 lead. Warner’s group cut the deficit to 11-7, but a service error and three straight spikes by Jackson ended the match.
“Today, you saw the fire in everyone’s eyes. You can tell that everyone wanted to win this game,” Jackson said.
Jackson finished with 13 kills, while Ildefonso added 12 spikes. Redeemer’s Jimmy Stepanski led all players with 37 assists.
For the East, DV’s Smith had a team-high 16 kills, and teammates Gabe Oliver and Baranowski combined for 11 spikes.
West 3, East 2
East `21`25`14`25`7 `–` 2
West 25`20`25`20`15 `–`3
East leaders: Tyler Smith 16 kills, 8 digs; Gabe Oliver 5 kills, 11 digs, 15 points; Josh Baranowski 6 kills, 8 points; Alec Divers 2 kills, 15 assists 4 digs.
West leaders: Noah Jackson 13 kills, 4 blocks; Luke Nealon 23 kills, 7 blocks; James Ildefonso 12 kills, 12 points; Mike Mohutsky 13 points, 4 digs; Jimmy Stepanski 37 assists.