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BY CHRIS GEORGE

FREDERICKSBURG – Senior Night at Northern Lebanon is always an emotional affair, but having played the night before, and following a tough five-game gut-wrenching loss, the Vikings displayed what their coach described as a ‘tough mentality’.  For seniors Tori Hollinger, Rachel Swank, and Karissa Adams, it would be their last match in the little yellow gym on the hill in Fredericksburg.

Viking coach Joe Mengel was more than pleased they were able to send them out with a victory, “we came out a little slow…but this team’s resilient, they just keep fighting…but I’m real glad to get the win, and real proud of this team!”

In normal seasons, the story would end there. It’s 2021 however, and this Viking squad is ready and willing to play more matches into the postseason for the first time in decades.

The Vikings will open the Lancaster-Lebanon League girls’ volleyball playoffs this Saturday at 10 am at Octorara High School, against Manheim Central in the first round. Coach Mengel noted that he’s confident his team can not only compete, but has a chance to make a run in the post-season. 

“We’ve played and competed against some of the best teams in the area (Octorara, Pine Grove, etc.),” said Mentel. “If we’re not playing our best volleyball right now, then we’re doing something wrong.”

Standout junior Sam White, who leads the entire L-L League in kills, echoed the same sentiments. “We’re excited for the playoffs and we’re really proud of our season.”

The Vikings finished the season 11-3 and in second place in Section Three of the L-L, behind 8-2 Octorara, losing two very tough, hard-fought matches. They will also open districts next week in the number-ten spot setting up an intriguing first-round draw against 19-win West York, and undefeated Central York as the two-seed, if they can win their first match.

Mengel also mentioned about the playoffs… “the attitude this team has really makes us excited for the postseason! It was our goal to go as far as we can this year and make a postseason run… this was about the kid’s putting the work in…. we as coaches can want it for them, but eventually it’s up to them.”

So with all this in mind, the Vikings took to their home court on Wednesday versus Lancaster Mennonite in a match they felt confident to take, but with tired legs and a weary spirit from the Octorara setback the night before.  The evening started slow for the Vikes in a tight first game that went back and forth with long rallies.

However, Northern Lebanon was able to close it out, feeding off a raucous all-pink student section. “Mennonite has a couple of really good players and they took us to four early in the season, so I kind of thought this could be a tough match,” said Coach Mengel.

The second game, propelled by their strong serves, saw the Vikings settle in and take command as expected. Coach Mengel mentioned the strength of the team being their serving, “although every coach can say that, but for us, we have to be serving well to control the game,” and that they did. 

The third game looked to be a formality, but the Blazers had other ideas, sticking close with Northern Lebanon. But when the home team took a 24-19 lead it seemed as though the night would end quickly. Give the Blazers credit though, they staged a thrilling rally to tie the game back at 24, and the stunned, usually crazy student section, was momentarily quite silent.

It set the stage for senior Tori Hollinger to blast the biggest and loudest spike of the night to squash the rally and ignite the crowd. In the last home game of her career, it was fitting that she took control of the moment.

When she served the final point, which wasn’t returned, the gym erupted to celebration and the Vikings had their season-ending victory over Lancaster Mennonite, 3-0.

As the Vikings travel over the next weeks into their playoff trek, nights and matches like this will be something they lean on and use as their confidence grows daily. Mengel said, “This is still a young squad, we have a lot of juniors.”

White is only a junior, along with setter Hailey Pierce, who coach says has improved throughout the year, and is playing her best volleyball, “gaining chemistry with her team”

In discussing the team and her teammates, White mentioned, “Our coaches motivate us daily, picking us up, and we all get along as friends off the court. It’s sad for our seniors to be playing their last game, but we’re hoping to send them out with a win.” 

The Vikings surely did that, accomplishing another goal, and hoping to make a run into November!

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