While top-seeded Central Bucks East may have been trailing Pennridge 13-6 midway through the third set of Tuesday’s District One Class 3A semifinal, the Patriots are undefeated for a reason.
CB East has senior Dylan Colbert on their side.
Colbert recorded six points including a pair of aces in a 12-5 Patriots’ scoring run that tied the battle at 18-all. East went on to a 25-23 win that ended a nice playoff run by the 12th-seeded Rams and returned the Patriots to the District One final vs. No. 6 seed North Penn, which swept No. 2 Pennsbury in the other semifinal.
Pennridge will face the Falcons in a third-place matchup for the third and final berth in states Thursday.
CB East coach Rob Minschwaner has guided Colbert through his four-year varsity career, one that saw him nominated to the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association all-state first team last year.
“He just has the perfect mentality; he’s so coachable, he listens to everything that you tell him,” stated Minschwaner. “He’ll offer suggestions and he always has good feedback.
“Watching him through the years, he started out as a freshman middle (hitter) for us just because we had guys that were hurt. By the time he was a sophomore, he was one of the more dominant hitters in the league.”
Colbert led the still unbeaten Patriots (19-0) with 10 kills, three aces, two blocks and five digs.
In the 3-0 sweep of Pennridge, East first took game one, 25-18, and game two, 25-14. But when the Patriots found themselves trailing 13-6 in the third set, Minschwaner called a timeout in order to get his squad to regroup.
“I didn’t change our strategy; I just told them to get back to it,” explained the coach.
“I told them keep serving tough; don’t get tentative. We didn’t get here by just trying to serve it in. We got here by trying to put them back on their heels on the serve.”
While this was the third time this season East topped Pennridge, the Rams entered the D1 semi on a playoff run that proved they were playing with no fear. Indeed, Pennridge had already eliminated No. 5 CB West in the opener and No. 4 Upper Dublin in quarterfinals.
“They played fantastic all through the playoffs,” stated Colbert. “We knew coming in that a lot of it was going to rely on who could build the momentum fastest and who could hang onto it.
“Once we got the lead in the first set, we were feeling a little bit better.
“We rolled from there.”
In game one, Colbert staked the Pats to an early 8-3 lead with a pair of kills and a block.
CB East junior Jacob LaBouliere showed he was a force to be reckoned with on the outside, recording five kills in a first set, finished off with a pair of kills by sophomore C.J. Dalby, who also contributed with two blocks.
“He’s been huge; he’s given us so much reliability in our outside depth,” said Colbert, of LaBouliere. “We’ve been able to push where we want to push and set up different plays.
“He’s been fantastic.”
LaBouliere finished with eight kills, two digs and a block.
Defensively, the Patriots were able to limit the damage done by Pennridge sophomore Ryan Benscoter.
“He’s a great offensive player and definitely a guy we put some time into game-planning for,” stated Colbert. “Whatever we were able to do to stop him or slow him down, we tried and it just worked out for us tonight.”
CB East junior Thomas Gallagher-Teske helped shore up the middle with five kills and a block.
“He was excellent,” stated Colbert. “We would be up at the line and communication tonight is what really stood out with our defensive play and blocking.
“When you have that kind of communication, I think it all really works out for you.”
Time and again, the Patriots attacked the line with some significant blocking.
“A lot our game plan revolved around that, making sure we had our blocking where we wanted it to be so that we were able to defend that rollover screen that they were running.
“And we were able to execute it so it was great.”
CB East junior middle hitter Christian Wolf chipped in with four kills, an ace and four blocks.
“He had a couple plays that I was watching and couldn’t believe,” explained Colbert. “The one dump on the other side where he’s up and the ball is just on the floor and I stood there going, ‘I thought he just set it back.’
“He was phenomenal and we had a big game out of both the middles again.”
Junior Steve Storm set everything up for the Patriots with 28 assists, two kills and a block.
“I think anytime anyone watches Steve play, they realize he’s one of the best setters in the area,” stated Minschwaner. “He’s just a junior so he has so much potential.”
Defensively, junior Ryan Figus led the way, chipping in with six digs and an ace.
“Ryan Figus has been a standout guy for us all year long,” stated Minschwaner. “We came into the season wondering what we’re going to do for libero and it was kind of an open contest.
“He really started to play his game. His pass rating on service is over 2.6, which is phenomenal.
“Anything over two, you’re doing great.
“Defensively he’s getting to balls you think are down and puff, it’s up.
“Almost every time he’s on the floor he makes a spectacular play.”
Back in the D1 finale for a second straight season, East gets a chance to avenge its loss to 2018 champ Council Rock North May 23 at CR South.
To get to the final, North Penn (11-6) eliminated No. 3 seed CR North 3-2 before sweeping No. 2 Pennsbury in straight sets.
“I like our chances but you can’t go in over-confident,” said Minschwaner. “North Penn is a great team.”
CB East topped the Knights three times this season, once in the Red Rover Invitational tournament and twice during the regular season.
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