CB East Battles Way to SOL Continental Title

Central Bucks East battled its way to a championship in the SOL Continental Conference and is the District One 3A Tournament’s second seed. The Patriots, along with five other SOL teams, will be in action in Thursday’s quarterfinals.

It was a season of high expectations for Central Bucks East.

After back-to-back second place finishes in the SOL Continental Conference – last year to Central Bucks West and the year before to Pennridge, the Patriots believed it was their turn, and they made it happen, finishing one game ahead of perennial league power Pennridge atop the standings.

“We were hoping to win the league with a shot at winning the district, and I think we’ve put ourselves in a good position to do that,” coach Rob Minschwaner said. “We knew we had a lot of talent coming back from last year.

“Our big question was leadership because we lost some great leaders with Mason (Miller), our setter, and Karl (Bandlow) and Liam (Creedon). We had a bunch of seniors that were instrumental in last year’s success. This year I was hoping some of the younger guys would step in and take over the leadership role, and they did.”

Seniors Carter Haban, a first team All-Continental Conference selection as a junior, and Andrew Bennett are the undisputed leaders. Both bring vastly different styles of leadership to the team.

“Andrew Bennett was huge this year – he really became more of our vocal leader on the court, and Carter has always been an on-the-court type of a coach,” Minschwaner said. “He’s very analytical in the way he sees the game, and he’s always interesting to talk to about what he’s seeing compared to what we’re seeing on the bench. It’s really been great.”

Haban, who will be continuing his volleyball career at Alvernia, was a first team all-league and third team all-district outside hitter last year.

Junior outside hitter Dylan Colbert also received all-league and all-district honors last year, and he gave the Patriots another finisher at the net.

“He’s battled through injuries all season, but he had a stellar season,” Minschwaner said. “He’s right up there with Carter, second on the team in kills and aces. He’s a big-time force at the net.”

A point of pride to Minschwaner and an undeniable key to the Patriots’ success has been the emergence of the team’s underclassmen. Four of East’s seven starters are sophomores.

“They’ve all really improved their game this year,” the Patriots’ coach said. “Steve (Storm), our setter, has been phenomenal. He’s getting more consistent with his location, and he provides a big block and another offensive weapon when he’s attacking.

“Our libero, Jacob LaBouliere, has been phenomenal this year, stepping into the starting role to replace Liam (Creedon), and really, we haven’t missed a beat. He’s done a great job. He seems to always be waiting for the ball. He reads the play as well as anybody I’ve coached.”

The Patriots’ two middles – Christian Wolf and Thomas Gallagher-Teske – are also sophomores.

“Christian Wolf has been outstanding since he came back from his broken wrist,” Minschwaner said.  “Thomas has only been playing since October when he came out for club for the first time, and he’s really picked it up.

“Going into the season, I knew I pretty much had five starters, and I didn’t know who would be my second middle. Thomas, I thought, had a shot at maybe starting jayvee, and it turns out he jumped four other guys and became a starter for varsity.”

Gallagher-Teske’s contributions might be a surprise, but others are not. Storm saw action in last year’s district match against Bensalem and gave a glimpse of his potential.

“He started out nervous and then really stepped up, and I think that actually helped prepare him for of the high pressure games he’s been in,” Minschwaner said. “He’s been outstanding – that’s not a shocker but surprising how consistent he’s been.”

It’s been a team effort, according to the Patriots’ coach, that has led to this year’s success.

“Not only have the starters been playing well, but guys coming in for them – we’ve had Jack Miller coming in and playing middle when we needed it and doing a great job,” Minschwaner said. “We’ve had some games where we’ve had to take our libero, Jacob (LaBouliere), and have him hit.

“We have another sophomore, Ryan Figus, who comes in and just does great as our libero. He may be our starting libero next. We’ve had (Peter) Chiaravallo coming in as a right side. Senior Night Erik Coombs - another kid who just started playing volleyball this year - came in and played all three sets against Quakertown and did great. When you talk about a total team effort – that’s really what this has been this year. They’ve all stepped up when called upon.”

Minschwaner also took time to credit his assistant coach, Steve Eaton, for his role in the team’s success.

“He has been with me since day one at East,” the Patriots’ coach said. “He worked tirelessly this season to get our young middles up to speed and in sync with our setter.”

East – the second seed - will host 10th-seeded Neshaminy in Thursday’s District One 3A quarterfinal match.

“We’re thrilled, we’re excited,” Minschwaner said. “Getting the second seed is huge because if hopefully we get to the semifinals – it gives us a home semifinal instead of away.”

Thursday, May 17
(8) Central Bucks West at (1) Council Rock North
(10) Neshaminy at (2) Central Bucks East
(5) Council Rock South at (4) Pennridge
(3) Pennsbury defeated (6) Souderton 3-0 on Wednesday