Two years ago, the Deer Lakes boys volleyball team, as the No. 3 seed in the WPIAL Class AA tournament, lost in the district semifinals.
The Lancers’ season then rested on a consolation contest against Montour at Baldwin.
Deer Lakes came through in that game against the Spartans, winning 3-1 to claim a trip to states.
This year’s team is in the same position. After Tuesday’s 3-0 setback to No. 2 Ambridge in the WPIAL semifinals, the Lancers return to Baldwin hoping to bounce back.
Who is their opponent for Thursday’s consolation final at 7:30 p.m.? Montour.
“We know what it’s like to win that (consolation) game, so we want to put in the effort to win it again,” senior libero Tyler Noble said.
Deer Lakes lost in the first round of states in 2016, but as the WPIAL runner-up last year, the Lancers won their PIAA first-round game before losing in the quarterfinals to District 10 champion Cochranton.
“We still have a goal to make it further than the state quarterfinals this year,” Noble said. “This match (Thursday) motivates us to get to states so we can do more.”
The AA championship — No. 1 Derry versus No. 2 Ambridge — and AAA consolation match — Butler against Seneca Valley — will be at 6, and while the Lancers play the Spartans, North Allegheny and Bethel Park will meet in the AAA title game.
“Montour’s a scrappy team. They play very good defense and have a couple of good hitters,” Noble said. “It should be a good match.“
Deer Lakes and Montour played at last month’s Derry Tournament. The Lancers scored a decisive victory in that matchup.
“Hopefully, we see a repeat of that,” senior setter Josh Solomon said.
While the WPIAL title hopes of senior-laden Deer Lakes were dashed Tuesday, the team refocused in practice Wednesday as only three teams make it to states in both AA and AAA.
“Based on last year’s performance, getting to the WPIAL title game, we kind of expected that out of ourselves and were disappointed with Tuesday’s loss,” Solomon said.
“We’re going to go into the consolation game the same way we’ve gone into every other one this season. We know what we are capable of, and we have to trust in our game and cut down on the errors that hurt us against Ambridge.”
Deer Lakes lost Game 1 to Ambridge, 25-22, but the Lancers came back and held a 20-17 lead in Game 2. That’s when senior All-WPIAL hitter Dan Hutchinson went down with an ankle injury and didn’t return. Deer Lakes lost Game 2, 26-24, and Game 3, 25-18.
Lancers’ coach Brady Schuller said Hutchinson did all he could to rehab the ankle Wednesday, and he tested it out at practice. Hutchinson will be a game-time decision.
“We would love to have him in the lineup, but we also are preparing to not have him and made the necessary changes,” Schuller said.
Freshman Devin Reiher played Tuesday in Hutchinson’s absence, and Schuller said he will be ready to go against Montour.
“Devin’s been sort of the Swiss Army knife for us,” Schuller said. “He’s played all around the court. He had three kills out of four sets on Tuesday. He was a little nervous, but I think that’s all gone now. He’s answered the bell all year for us. He just wants to play and contribute to a win.”
The Lancers already had dealt with the loss of a senior leader when Trevor Sutch suffered a knee injury during a late-season basketball game in February.
“We’ve faced a lot of adversity, and people have stepped up,” Noble said.