It looked as if Exeter would suffer its first lost of the season in the Berks Boys Volleyball League final Tuesday night.
The Eagles were down two sets to one and trailing by two in the fourth set, just four points from falling to defending champion Gov. Mifflin.
However, a young Exeter team was determined to not let that loss happen.
The Eagles came back to win 3-2 over the Mustangs at Reiffton, rallying to earn the fourth set 25-22, then taking the fifth 15-12.
After winning the first set 25-21, Exeter lost the next two by a combined seven points, with Mifflin winning 25-20 and 25-23.
The Mustangs (13-4) used a 6-0 run to get within four points of winning back-to-back county championships. That is when the Eagles (18-0) went a run of their own run, 6-2, to stay alive.
“There was not a doubt in my mind that this team that we have right now could come back and win that game,” Exeter’s Gaige Gabriel said on his thoughts about trailing in the match.
Gabriel had three kills in the fifth set to help make sure his team would be hoisting the trophy postgame.
The Eagles started hot in the fifth set, going up 6-2, but the Mustangs would not let up.
Mifflin got within 11-10 before Exeter closed it out with a 4-2 run.
“Great,” Exeter coach Matt Hadley said on how it feels to win the Berks title. “It’s unbelievable. They pushed and worked so hard all year for this. It’s great for them to come out with this win.”
The Eagles have not had a match all season where they dropped two sets, let alone come to the brink of defeat, but they still found a way to get the victory.
“They found a way to battle,” Hadley said. “It’s a situation we haven’t been in all year, but good teams find a way to win. We’re a good, great team that’s still got a lot to accomplish. We’re going to take this one and enjoy it.”
On the other side, the Mustangs suffered a tough loss.
“Just errors,” Gov. Mifflin coach Ryan Stubler said on why his team came up short. “You can’ make errors and miss serves against a great team like that. I got to hand it to them, they’re a very young team and they held it together very well. They’re a great team.”
Both coaches and their teams know this hard-fought matchup will help them going into the District 3 playoffs, which begin May 23 against opponents to be determined, as each side learned a lot.
“I’ve said all season, ‘At the end of the day to be a champion you got to learn to lose,’ and that’s what we’re going to do,” said Stubler, whose team will be in the Class 3A field.
“I think every game for us is another step,” said Hadley, whose team will in the Class 2A field. “This is just another step in the right direction. I think it’s just going to help us push into districts and hopefully beyond.”
For the Eagles Tuesday, Gabriel, a Penn State commit, had 21 kills and Chase Nugent had 13 kills. For the Mustangs, Aidan Young and Tyler Knoop each had 14 kills.
The county championship is Exeter’s first since 2021, fourth since 2018 and record 13th overall.
Source: Berkshire mont