DALLAS - After raising his arm high above the net and smashing the final point to the gym floor in one final statement of triumph, Jeremy Myslowski charged over to join his celebrating teammates.
He quickly found fellow seniors Brendan Leahigh, Mike Morrison and Vito Aiello, who banded together for one more inspiring battlecry.
“Graduation!” they yelled.
Obviously, the Royals had more on their minds Wednesday than playing a state-opening volleyball match.
But since graduation day for Holy Redeemer began with the start of the PIAA Class 2A boys volleyball playoffs, Leahigh made 12 kills, Morrison had nine kills and five blocks and Myslowski made 22 assists as the Royals rolled past Schuylkill Valley, 27-25, 25-14, 25-17 at Dallas High School.
“And they practiced this (Wednesday) morning for graduation,” Holy Redeemer coach Jack Kablick said, noting that his senior players headed for the 7 p.m. graduation ceremonies at Redeemer right after completing a state volleyball match that began at 3:30 p.m. “The spacing was fair. We had 3 1/2 hours between the the match (and graduation). Some of the seniors said, ‘Let’s get out of here in three (games) and it won’t be a problem.”
When Myslowski put down the final point, Redeemer wrapped up the match - and a spot in the state quarterfinals Saturday against either Manheim Central or Western Wayne - in just under 90 minutes. That left the Royals two hours to pull on their caps and gowns and pick up their diplomas.
“It feels so great to have that game-winning kill,” said Myslowski, who made six of those kills, served 11 points including two aces and picked up four digs to complement his 22 assists. “Being it’s graduation night for us makes it all the more sweet.”
Hard-hitting junior Mike Prociak made Redeemer’s strategy look even sweeter.
The 6-foot-7 middle hitter pounded home a match-high 15 kills, including two straight to give the Royals breathing room with a four-point lead early in the final game. He then slammed home three consecutive points to put Redeemer up, and on the brink of the state-opening victory, 25-14.
“At that point, we felt like we had the game sealed,” Prociak said. “We were completely in rhythm. We were just really in sync today. I think it’s a sense of knowing it’s playoff time. We just know that every point matters that much more. If you lose once, you go home. We don’t want that to happen. We really think we can go far in states.”
Redeemer’s offense ran smoothly thanks in large part to 6-7 hitter Morrison.
The strategy was simple.
The Royals matched up Morrison on junior killing machine Mitch Strobel - “He’s they’re go-to man,” Kablick said - and neutralized Schuylkill Valley’s greatest weapon. That left Prociak pounding shots over much smaller Schuylkill Valley players, none taller than 6-4.
“We had a great matchup with him,” Kablick said. “Morrison did a great job. That puts Prociak against their second line of defense, and he just feasted on it.”
Noticing that, the Royals kept feeding Prociak.
“When there’s good ability on both sides, matchups are important,” Myslowski said. “When you have a 6-7 (player) on one side and a guy a bunch of inches shorter on the other side, it’s good to use your matchups.”
Ultimately, it meant Redeemer reserved a trip to the second round of states, and in plenty of time to get to a graduation.
“I don’t think we were distracted,” Myslowski said. “We had to focus on one thing at a time. Both things were really important to us.”
Holy Redeemer: Mike Prociak 15 kills, Brendan Leahigh 12 kills, Jeremy Myslowski 22 assists, 11 service points, Mike Morrison 9 kills, five blocks, Vito Aiello 8 service points, Mike Conlon 12 assists, 7 service points.