BETHLEHEM — They were so hungry to get to the state semifinals, the Holy Redeemer Royals kept chewing up a very good defensive gameplan.
And the very last bite was the sweetest.
The Royals rode 17 kills from John Carr and the hot hand if Mike Prociak at the end of Saturday’s showdown as Redeemer gashed Garden Spot, 3-0 in a PIAA Class 2A boys volleyball quarterfinal game at Bethlehem’s Liberty High School.
“It feels great,” Carr said.
The last point proved very tempting to Prociak, who dinked the ball to an open spot on the floor to wrap up Redeemer’s 25-19, 25-17, 25-22 sweep.
“We call those lunchpail kills — just feasting on it,” Prociak grinned.
It hit the spot, ending Garden Spot’s season and putting the Royals two victories away from a state title.
For most of the day, Redeemer ate up points at the net while securing a spot in the state semifinals Tuesday against defending PIAA champion Northeastern at Bethlehem Freedom High School. Northeastern handled North Pocono, 3-0, in an earlier state quarterfinal match Saturday afternoon at Liberty.
Carr did his best to make sure Redeemer’s second state match ended early. The 6-foot-7 sophomore hitter made five kills in the first set and spiked the deciding point.
“I sort of expected it. I played to get that,” Carr said of his heady set-ending point.
Then he came back with six kills to control the second set and used his second block of the day to end the set and put the Royals on the brink of victory.
“He really dominated out there,” Holy Redeemer coach Jack Kablick said. “Teams might relax when Mike Prociak leaves the floor. But then they have to see another 6-7 (hitter). That’s what it’s pretty much been the whole year.”
What Redeemer saw in the third set was a slugfest.
Senior-dominated Garden Spot cleaned up some of its earlier mistakes, eliminating the unforced errors that continually stalled any momentum the District 3’s No. 2 state seed had generated through various points of the first two sets.
Micah Hostetter’s kill early in the third set gave Garden Spot its first lead of the day, 5-4. And that advantage grew to three points on three separate occasions — twice on kills by senior captain Matt High.
But the high only lasted for so long.
With Redeemer trailing 21-18, Prociak dinked home a point that triggered a gallant comeback by the Royals.
“Especially after the last match, we just wanted to put this team away,” said Prociak, referring to Redeemer’s tight 3-2 victory over York Suburban in the opening state round. “I don’t like to use the word easy — I thought we felt relaxed the whole time.”
Maybe too relaxed after cruising through the first two sets.
“Sometimes when you’re up two sets on a team … I think we sort of just slacked off a bit,” Prociak said, “and they had a little momentum.”
Prociak stole it away at the end, though.
He deftly touched down another dink and came up with a big block on consecutive plays as the Royals evened the third set, 22-22.
And after Mike Gatusky’s spike gave the Royals the lead to keep, Prociak ended the show with a block and his match-ending dink to send Redeemer to celebration.
“Obviously, I’d prefer to just slam it as much as I could,” Prociak said of the final point. “When we see a clear area’s open, it’s much better to take it. You’re trying to push the ball to the spot, that’s what I was trying to do.”
And it pushed the Royals right into the state semifinal round.
“It’s about taking what they give you,” Kablick said. “We had them on their heels (with big hits) and they’re not going to come running up. We said, ‘Pro (for Prociak), that four-trap is going to be open.’ They left quite a big gap there.”
Holy Redeemer 3, Garden Spot 0
GS - Matt High 9 kills, Alex Myers 6 kills, Austin Sindell 4 kills, 1 block, Michah Hostetter 4 kills, Jon Umble 4 kills.
HR - John Carr 17 kills, 4 blocks, Mike Prociak 14 kills, 3 blocks, Mike Conlan 33 assists, Mike Gatusky 12 kills, Ken Rexer 9 service points, 4 digs.