SCRANTON – As soon as the free ball floated over the net, head coach Jack Kablick started to yell out the play.
The dig was perfect. The assist was pretty. And Mike Prociak’s thunderous swing was something to marvel at.
When the sphere crashed on the North Pocono side of the court, it set off a party for the Holy Redeemer boys’ volleyball team.
The Royals avenged an early-season loss to the Trojans, winning in straight sets, 3-0, to capture the school’s third-straight District 2 Class 2A title at Scranton High School.
Match scores were 25-23, 25-21 and 26-24. Both teams advance to next week’s PIAA state tournament that begins Wednesday.
Earlier in the season, Pocono swept the Royals in Wyoming Valley Conference play.
“We had to come out just as intense as we did in the semifinals,” Redeemer senior Jeremy Myslowski said. “We changed some things around from that first game, and we were able to really adjust. We grew as a team since that game. As a senior, this is my third district medal, and it feels as good as the first. We knew this was our goal, and we weren’t going to let that one loss to North Pocono early in the year define our season.”
The victory shows how much Redeemer has improved since the start of the season. Considered by some as underdogs in 2013, the Royals took their lumps during some in-season tournaments.
Kablick will be the first to point out those matches with the best teams in the state.
“I give our principal and our athletic director a lot of credit because they allowed us to go to those tough tournaments,” he said. “If they would have said no, we wouldn’t be able to go. Those tournaments are where we grew up, playing the best teams in the state, Double-A and Triple-A. We’ve seen everything from those teams.”
Overcoming an amazing 21 service errors Thursday, it was Redeemer that appeared poised and calm even when the waters got a little cloudy.
Credit the senior leadership with a little bit of Prociak sprinked in.
Although he didn’t want to talk much about himself, the middle hitter played a pretty big part in the title victory. He finished with 12 kills, three blocks and constantly put pressure on the North Pocono offense.
Combine his size with senior Mike Morrison at the net, and the Trojans struggled to get into any type of offensive rhythm.
“We liked our blocking matchups, their hitters versus our blockers,” Kablick said. “There were a few rotations where we would be dominant because of our size. Mike Prociak just put the exclamation on the night with that last hit.”
Tied at 22 in the opening set, it was a block by Prociak and Myslowski – combined with two Trojan mental miscues — that gave Redeemer the early edge and the first set.
Again, when times got tough in the third, the mental edge went to Redeemer.
Down 10-7, the Royals got some big swings from Brendan Leahigh and Morrison, and a big block by Myslowski to grab the 17-16 advantage.
Tied at 24 late, it was back-to-back kills from Prociak that sealed the match.
“This is an amazing feeling because no one really expected us to win districts this year,” Prociak said. “It was a little shaky when we lost to them early in the year, but we’ve been playing well for a while and preparing for this moment. It shows how much we’ve improved. We’ve been working hard, and I still don’t think we’ve reached our peak yet. It’s the start of a longer run.”
HOLY REDEEMER 3, NORTH POCONO 0
H 25 25 25
NP 23 21 24
Holy Redeemer Leaders: Jeremy Myslowski, 7 kills, 19 assists; Brendan Leahigh, 12 kills, 5 blocks; Mike Morrison, 6 blocks; Mike Prociak, 12 kills, 3 blocks.
North Pocono Leaders: Cory Rinaldi, 7 kills; Justin Butler, 19 assists; Eric Kramer, 4 kills, 2 aces.