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MECHANICSBURG — Mechanicsburg opened the Mid-Penn season with a matchup against a very similar Hershey team. They both struggled through some growing pains last season, but expect to be near the top of the pile contending for a division title. The Trojans took advantage of their size and an injury to sweep the Wildcats, 3-0, with set scores being 25-22, 25-20, and 25-15, Tuesday night at Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School.
The opening game for first year Wildcats coach Jake Heck was going well as the teams were tied six times before the game reached 11 points. Robert Sosa served four consecutive points to give the Wildcats a 14-10 lead, but some sloppy ball-handling allowed the Trojans to get within two.
At 15-12, the Wildcats’ Ian Capp went up for a block, but came down awkwardly on his foot and had to be helped off the court. He did not return to the match.
The Wildcats again kept the match close as Quay San and Jamail Collottia kept Mechanicsburg in with some slick ball-handling and kills on sets by Kaden Knepper.
Mechanicsburg (0-1, 0-1 Keystone) led 22-21, but a hit by Sean Drozynski was blocked by Ryan Crawford and it seemed to spark the Trojans. Crawford added another block and Nate Dougherty added two kills on sets by Dillon D’Amour to close out the first game.
“We seemed to get our bad play out of the way in the first game,” Hershey coach Nate Erdman said. “We seemed to click at the end of the first game and through the second and third games. Our size did make a difference. We have two kids at 6-feet-5 tall and we have really been working on our blocking. We also were able to match up with their strengths when Ian went down.”
Both teams were even again through the early part of the second game. Collottia scored four straight points on his serve and Knepper and San were in sync to get the Wildcats a tie at 14.
Malachi Long stepped to the service line and serves six consecutive points, two of which were aces and the Trojans jumped out to a 20-14 lead.
Knepper added a couple of aces on his jump serve as the Trojan defense struggled to pick up the serve and the Mechanicsburg trailed 23-19.
Hershey (1-0, 1-0) used the quick set to the middle and used Cole Carver to kill the quick sets. Outside sets by D’Amour were usually by Jon Abbott, Armeno Pelligrino and Crawford.
San kept the second game alive as he pounded a set through the big man block but on the next ball, D’Amour tipped a dink off a Wildcat hand for the winning point.
“I saw some really good things out there,” Mechanicsburg coach Jake Heck said. “I would have liked to have had Ian a lot longer this year but we did play better tonight. We need to clean up some of the ball-handling errors and we can’t afford to give away points like that. We will be fine this year, just wish I had some of that size that definitely made a difference.”
Andrew Sam, a junior varsity player and back-up libero, came on and served up three straight aces to jump start the Trojans in the final game. The Trojans led 9-4 and 14-8 before Erdman started to substitute some younger players. Mechanicsburg cut the lead to 18-14 before Danny Reeves put away three sets from D’Amour to close out the game.
Carver led the way with 11 kills and nine blocks. D’Amour had 27 assists and Crawford added eight kills and five blocks.
For the Wildcats, San led the way with 10 kills, 16 digs, one ace and three blocks. Kaden added 18 assists and two aces. Jamail added five kills.
“Quay is crucial to our team but I saw some good things with keeping balls alive,” said Heck. “We should be able to win some games this year, we just need to keep injuries to a minimum.”