The early season gauntlet stayed difficult for the Elizabethtown Area High School boys volleyball team, which had to play four games in six days. While the Bears started off slowly, they ultimately finished extremely strong.
Elizabethtown took part in a Section Two showdown at Manheim Central on Thursday, April 4. The winner would take control of first place in the section. The Barons, who were the runner-ups in Class 3A for both District 3 and the PIAA as a whole last season, came out hot, scoring the first six points of the first set. The Bears were able to work their way back into things though, tying the score at 15-15 and later going on a 5-0 run to take a 22-20 lead.
Manheim Central responded with three straight points to go up 23-22. When Elizabethtown tied it back up at 23-23, the Barons clutched out two more points to win 25-23. They would cruise to 25-15 and 25-17 victories in the second and third as well to get the 3-0 sweep.
Senior Mason Nissley had a game-high 21 kills for Manheim Central. Sophomore Jeremiah Zimmerman also led all players with 28 assists. For Elizabethtown, senior Nick Chapman had 10 kills, while juniors Nate Seeger and Jake Sevcik had 23 assists and 11 digs, respectively. Sophomore Rudy Woitas chipped in with 7 blocks as well.
The Bears stayed on the road Friday, April 5, for a non-league bout at Spring Grove. Both teams traded points early in the first set before the Rockets seized control. However, they never led by more than 4 points, so Elizabethtown was able to stay close, eventually grabbing a 24-23 lead late after a 6-0 run. Spring Grove answered by scoring three straight points to win 26-24.
The roles flipped during the second set. The Bears held the lead for much of the game before the Rockets went up 20-19 late. With Spring Grove leading 23-21, Elizabethtown reeled off four straight points to steal the set and win 25-21.
The third set saw the Bears lead from the get-go; they eventually prevailed 25-18 after again scoring the last four points. Spring Grove recovered in the fourth, going up 13-7 early and holding Elizabethtown off after the latter had a 5-0 run to cut it to 15-14. However, the Bears finally took a 23-22 lead in the final stages, and after the Rockets tied it at 23-23, used kills from Chapman and Woitas to win 25-23 and get the 3-1 overall victory.
Junior Jacques Mortha had a team-high 15 kills for the Bears, who saw six of their players reach at least 5 kills. Seeger (5 kills) went off with a career-high 44 assists to lead all players, while Chapman (10 kills, 5 digs), Woitas (7 kills), junior Casey Lyons (9 kills) and junior Gavin Gilhool (5 kills, 3 blocks) were all major contributors. Sevcik notched 13 digs as well.
Sophomore Dalton Mummert led all players with 20 kills for Spring Grove. Sophomore Josh Blymier had 20 assists as well.
Elizabethtown returned home on Monday, April 8, to host Hershey in its last non-league match of the season. The Trojans had previously beaten the Bears twice in the Eagle Challenge Tournament at Cocalico on Saturday, March 30, so revenge was on the latter’s minds. They held the opposition off in the first set, winning 25-18.
Hershey responded by going on a 6-0 run early in the second to take a 12-8 lead. When Elizabethtown tied the game back up at 18-18, the Trojans proceeded to score four straight points, later getting the 25-21 victory. The Bears recovered in the third, keeping Hershey at bay to win 25-21.
The fourth set was a crazy one. The two sides repeatedly traded points, with numerous ties occurring at different points. Hershey finally got a brief 21-19 lead before Elizabethtown stormed back and scored four straight to go up 23-21. The Trojans tied it back up at 23-23, and from there, neither team could score two straight for the win until two late Hershey errors put the Bears over the top for a 30-28 win and the 3-1 overall victory.
Mortha once again led Elizabethtown with 10 kills. Chapman finished with 8, also getting a game-high 3 blocks and 5 service aces, while Lyons and Woitas each had 7. Seeger led all players with 32 assists, while Sevcik had a season-high 17 digs.
Senior Ian Devore had a game-high 16 kills for Hershey, as did junior David Randall with 22 digs. Senior Casey Shipman also had 31 assists.
Things got slightly easier for the Bears on Tuesday, April 9, at home against Lebanon. They crushed the Cedars 25-10 in the first set to establish the tone, later picking up 25-17 and 25-19 wins in the final two for a 3-0 sweep.
For the third straight game, Mortha led the team with 8 kills, also notching 6 digs. Chapman (6 kills, 8 digs) and Gilhool (6 kills) also chipped in. Seeger had 25 assists and 5 service aces, while Sevcik finished with 14 digs and 3 service aces.
With their record now at 5-3 on the year, the Bears will have a five-day break before their next game at home vs. Cocalico on Monday, April 15. They’ll then go to Lancaster Mennonite on Tuesday, April 16. Ahead of those contests, however, they’ll host their annual E-Town Challenge Tournament in Daubert Gym on Saturday, April 13.