Sit in the pregame huddles, and the pep talk may slightly differ. It’s to be expected, though, based on past experience.
Don’t expect Holy Redeemer head coach Jack Kablick to say very much. His Royals have seemingly been in this position time after time, reaching the state semifinals on several occasions.
Berwick head coach Sarah Warner admits she won’t change her mantra.
“All season, my mentality has been go big or go home,” she said. “So, why not? Why not go big, play hard and have fun doing it?”
Today, both District 2 squads begin their road toward Penn State University and the PIAA Class 2A boys’ volleyball championship.
Redeemer will make the short jaunt across the city to Wilkes for a matchup with District 12 third-placer Archbishop Wood. Berwick hits the highway to Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg for a showdown with the multiple-time defending state champ Northeastern.
The winners advance into Saturday’s quarterfinal round.
“I think we are about to hit our peak. We haven’t hit it yet,” Redeemer senior libero Mike Mohutsky said. “We have so much potential on this roster. I feel that we are ready.”
It’s amazing on how different a bracket can feel.
Yes, they are on the same side of the draw. But it’s two totally distinct paths.
Redeemer, ranked No. 7 in the state, enters its match as the overwhelming favorite to advance in the quarterfinals. History has shown that the Royals have always matched up well with any representative from District 12. Just this season alone, the D2 champ has already swept by the District 12 champ (Lansdale Catholic) and the district’s runner-up (Palumbo)
And there’s no denying Redeemer has played some good volleyball in the postseason – roaring through a trifecta of Wyoming Valley Conference schools (Crestwood, Berwick, North Pocono) to reach the state round.
“No doubt, playing some of our conference teams have really helped out going into states,” said Redeemer junior Ben Rachilla, who has more than 200 kills on the season. “Plus, we’ve really played in a lot of tough tournaments. Some of those were right around District 3. Hopefully, that pays off for us. I think we have been progressing, and we are getting better every day.”
Berwick, on the other hand, is the underdog – and no one would argue that. Northeastern is currently on a 16-match winning streak in state playoff games, winning the last four titles.
The Bulldogs haven’t made a state tournament since 2007, and almost lost their program three years.
Yes, it’s quite an uphill battle against the Bobcats. But a challenge Warner’s group is excited for.
“We are feeling fantastic,” Berwick setter Ethan Potter said. “It was nice to play Holy Redeemer in playoffs because they are one of the best in the state. We learned a lot from that match. Hopefully, a match like that, prepares you for what is ahead. This season has been a journey. I can’t say enough about what this has meant for us.
Warner added, “For me, this has been such a surreal season – and unexpected in a way. I knew at the beginning of the season, we had a lot of potential. But to make it to states, it’s amazing. I’m happy for the kids.”