DALLASTOWN -- The two hallmarks of many great volleyball teams is serving and defense.
If you can do both, you have a good shot at being very successful.
Tuesday night in the York-Adams League Tournament championship contest against Central York, Delone Catholic proved to be adept in both areas. The Squirettes frustrated the Panthers with their serve and found ways to keep points alive with a scrappy defense.
The end result was another league title for Coach Jason Leppo's squad after sweeping the Panthers, 25-17, 25-23, 25-19, at Dallastown High School. It marked the second year in a row that the Squirettes, the Division III champions with a 17-0 record, won the title.
"If you win the serve-and-pass battle and play relentless defense, you're going to give yourself a shot, you're going to give yourself a chance," Leppo said. "And we did that tonight."
"They're a good program," Central York coach Nate Ocasio said. "They're well-coached and they're built from the ground up. And that's the difference between great teams and good teams, and they're a very experienced team."
Delone took charge midway through Game 1 with a 5-1 run that turned a slim 9-8 advantage into a 14-9 cushion. After the Panthers rallied to cut the deficit to 14-12, the Squirettes ran off the next four points and never looked back.
Central led for the majority of Game 2 and appeared in position to even the match with a 23-22 lead late. Delone, though, got a big kill from Cheyenne Altland to even up the match before registering one of six aces for the contest off a serve from libero Hannah Lawrence. After a Central timeout, Mary Gingrow scored a block on the following play to cap a 25-23 victory.
Game 3 was a lot like Game 1. The Squirettes rallied to turn an 8-7 edge into a 17-12 lead midway through. The Panthers survived one match point, but were finished off when Delone setter Katie Laughman scored a kill to cap the triumph.
While the Squirettes have a lot of experience back from last year's squad that lost in the PIAA Class AA state finals, some of the girls, such as sophomores Laughman (18 assists, three kills) and Sarah Senft (nine kills, 15 assists) are admittedly still learning how to cope with the added pressure of the playoffs.
"Katie and Sarah, both sophomores, didn't get a ton of court time in these situations last year," Leppo said. "And you could tell that they were a little nervous, a little jittery, especially in the (semifinals against) Susquehannock. But after that one, they really settled down."
Fortunately for Leppo, he has a crew of veteran players who the younger girls lean on. Girls such as Maddy Comly (nine kills), Lawrence (16 digs) and Mary Gingrow (four kills, two blocks) have shown the ability to motivate their teammates at just the right times.
"Experience is invaluable when you have kids that have been there and done that," Leppo said. "It just gives them someone to rely on out on the court."
While the outcome wasn't exactly what the Panthers were hoping for, Ocasio and company know that the season is still far from over. Just how far will be determined when Central takes on Daniel Boone in the District 3-AAA playoffs Saturday.
"This was another opportunity for us to get better," said Ocasio, whose team downed South Western, 25-22, 21-25, 25-22, 25-18, in the semifinals. "Of course it would be nice to come away with a county championship and raise another banner on the wall. But at the same time, we just have to continue to get better. Our ultimate goal isn't to just win a county championship, it's to make a deep run in districts."
Getting over the stinging setback of Tuesday will be something that Ocasio hopes to achieve starting with practice Wednesday.
"You have to have thick skin coming into that," he said. "You have to make sure you have a forward focus and that you're not looking back. And that forward focus is going to be huge at districts, because the minute that your mind starts to wander, you have mental lapses, and that's something that we can't afford."
Delone, the top-seeded team in the Class AA bracket for districts advanced to the finals after knocking off Division I champion Susquehannock, the top-seeded team in the District 3-AAA bracket, 25-20, 25-21, 22-25, 25-16, in the semifinals.
Andrea Quartey led all players with a game-high 13 kills for the Panthers, while setter Erin Dobbeck dished out 18 assists to go with two aces and five digs.
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.