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PIAA boys volleyball tournament: Mars’ historic season ends with state semifinal loss to Meadville

NEW CASTLE — Meadville gained an edge in sets after surviving a back-and-forth third game. The Bulldogs kept Mars from reaching State College by climbing back late in the fourth.

The most successful season in Mars boys volleyball program history came to a close Tuesday night with a 3-1 PIAA Class 2A semifinal loss to Meadville at Shenango High School.

The scores of the match were 25-19, 17-25, 26-24 and 25-22.

The Planets (22-1) were ahead 18-13 in what turned out to be the final set before Bulldogs (20-0) coach Nick Bancroft called for a timeout.

Related Article: How Mars boys volleyball’s Kaden Gratton has become ‘the face of this whole run’ in PIAA tournament

“’Forget about what’s going on and we have to just side out and move on,’” Bancroft said, recalling what he told his players. “Offensively, both teams are high-powered. We had to just try to get a defensive stop to slow them down a little bit.”

The words of advice worked, as his cast notched four of the game’s next five points, forcing Mars into asking for a pause of their own. Meadville’s Tymir Phillips had consecutive blocks out of that minute-long break, evening matters at 19.

Mars' Ryan Ceh hugs Liam Quinn after their loss against Meadville in the PIAA Class 2A boys volleyball tournament semifinal at Shenango High School on Tuesday, June 11. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

A service error gave Mars the advantage back, then a Phillips kill tied it up again. Liam Quinn’s service ace that kissed the top of the net pushed the Planets up by two. The Bulldogs took another timeout and proceeded to finish the match off with five straight points.

“I couldn’t slow them down at the end, and they had all the momentum,” Mars coach Mike Nypaver said. “I think that that was a big factor there in that last set. ... They stayed aggressive the whole way.”

In the prior set, Meadville didn’t fall behind until a Kaden Gratton kill made it 18-17 in the Planets’ favor. A Phillips block made it 19-18, Bulldogs, then the teams alternated points until Phillips logged a kill and a block on consecutive serves.

Related Article: Mars boys volleyball’s historic run continues with PIAA Class 2A quarterfinal win vs West Shamokin

“They’re really scrappy,” Nypaver said. “They have great ball control. We had a tough time getting them out of system. The times that we did get them out of system, we had success. In the second and the fourth set there were big runs that we had where we were getting them out of system and made them a little bit more predictable.

“It was really, really hard to do it.”

Mars didn’t trail in the second set, jumping out to a 9-4 edge and not looking back. Meadville led wire to wire in the game before that.

Mars' Ryan Ceh attempts a kill during the Planets’ PIAA Class 2A boys volleyball semifinal against Meadville at Shenango High School on Tuesday. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

Junior Derek Piatek had 17 kills, a block and an ace for the Planets. Senior Ryan Ceh added 10 kills and a block.

The Planets graduate Colton Riska, Tyler Raabe, Amir Ali, Owen Javor, Vivek Dadi, Kyle Organ, Ayden Starcher, Rayane Lahlou, Quinn, Ceh and Gratton.

“To come from basically nowhere as freshmen and be (at) this point is a heck of a job by them,” Nypaver said. “They were incredibly dedicated through all for of their years, those seniors. It’s a shame that we have to lose this way and go out. I wish it would’ve been in that final weekend.”

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