By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
NEW MILFORD – District 2’s top team this season and its top program for more than a decade will square off for the Class 2A boys volleyball title Thursday at North Pocono at 5:30.
Unbeaten, top-seed Blue Ridge (20-0) will face third-seeded Holy Redeemer (13-4) after both won semifinal matches in a doubleheader hosted by the Raiders May 23.
Blue Ridge is the defending district champion, the Lackawanna League champion, the district’s only overall unbeaten and the No. 1 team in the Riverfront Sports Super Six Boys Volleyball Rankings of district teams. The Raiders won District 2 last season by beating Berwick to finish third in the District 2-11 Class 2A Subregional.
District 2 has returned to its own tournament this season and both the Raiders and Royals have already used it to qualify for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state tournament berths.
Holy Redeemer won the 10 District 2 Class 2A titles held between 2011 and 2021. After years as a frontrunner, the Royals got to the final by pulling off one of their few victories ever that could be described as an upset.
A recap of the tournament to date:
Holy Redeemer 3, Tunkhannock 1
Holy Redeemer spread out the front of the Tunkhannock defense.
Then, the Royals spread the ball around and attacked from a variety of angles to end the Tigers’ 15-match winning streak by rallying for a 21-25, 30-28, 25-17, 25-23 victory in the opener of the doubleheader at Blue Ridge.
“In the second set, we kind of found a way,” Holy Redeemer coach John Kablick said. “We wanted to spread them out, because we have two middles that run great slides and now we’ve got them blocking pin-to-pin and their medal has to guess who to take.
“Our setter’s job is to get our hitters one-on-one and he did a great job as a freshman setter.”
Jack Wasiakowski, the setter, finished with 36 assists and 9 service points.
Josh Roca had 13 kills, Mike Dubaskas had 12, Cody Reed had 11 and Johnathan Roca had 10.
Rood also led in service points with 13. Josh Roca had 12 points and 7 digs.
Johnathan Roca had eight blocks while Dubaskas had seven.
Kablick pointed to another key – the reduction of errors.
The coach thought the Royals gave away too many points while losing two sets that went overtime during a regular-season loss to Tunkhannock.
In the first set of the semifinal, Kablick counted 19 Tunkhannock points as being the result of hitting errors, serving errors and ball-control mistakes by Holy Redeemer.
“That’s a lot of points to give up,” he said.
Shane Macko had nine kills to lead Tunkhannock.
Evanston Myers had eight kills and 10 assists. Marcus Binner had 21 assists and three blocks.
Holy Redeemer outlasted Tunkhannock in the second set and jumped to an 18-10 lead in the third.
The Tigers regrouped to play on almost even terms (32-30) the rest of the way, but could not come up with the points they needed most.
Blue Ridge 3, Dallas 0
Blue Ridge finished strong in all three sets, starting with a Connor Cranage-led flurry in the first set, to down Dallas by scores of 25-16, 25-23, 25-21 in the completion of the doubleheader.
Cranage led the Raiders with 19 kills and 7 blocks.
Dallas led by at least three points in each set.
Cranage, however, controlled key stretches of the match with his play at the net, flying over taller opponents and teammates to take charge.
The returning all-stater was at his best late in the first set to help Blue Ridge break away after leading just, 15-13.
Cranage had kills for four of the next five points. When it came his time to serve, Cranage still got to the net for a spike on his first serve.
The final Cranage serve was an ace to end the set. In all, he had 6 kills and 3 service points among the last 10 points by Blue Ridge.
“That was definitely our energy,” said Cranage, whose block ended a tight second set. “When we’re all screaming and cheering, it changes the momentum for us.”
Carson Gallagher had 29 kills, 6 digs and 6 service points for the Raiders.
Nick Laude had eight kills while Aiden Glasgow chipped in six digs.
Brandon Banks had 23 assists to surpass 1,000 for his career at Dallas. He also had eight digs and three kills.
Cameron Faux added 10 kills, 8 blocks and 6 digs. Alan Lisman had 10 digs, 9 kills and 6 service points. Philip Orzechowski had 10 points and 5 blocks. Carter Brunn had seven kills and six blocks.
Blue Ridge 3, Forest City 0
When all four quarterfinals were held May 16, Blue Ridge swept with ease at home by set scores of 25-12, 25-8, 25-10.
Laude had 14 kills while Gallagher provided 25 assists and 5 aces.
Dallas 3, Berwick 1
Dallas was the only team to win on the road, beating fourth-seeded Berwick by set scores of 13-25, 25-14, 25-17, 25-15.
Holy Redeemer 3, Crestwood 1
Just as it would a week later in the semifinals, Holy Redeemer put four players in double figures in kills while winning, 25-14, 25-20, 21-25, 25-13.
Jonathan Roca had 13 kills, Rood had 12 and Joshua Rocha and Dubaskas had 10 each.
Johnathan Roca also had 8 blocks while Joshua Rocha had 13 points and 11 digs.
Wasiakowski had 32 assists.
Tunkhannock 3, Mountain View 0
Tunkhannock swept Mountain View by set scores of 25-17, 25-22, 25-12.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Blue Ridge student photographer Patience Luce.