DALLASTOWN -- One of five seniors on the Eastern York girls' volleyball team, Lexi Rhein started off looking every bit like a top college prospect Wednesday night at Dallastown.
Facing No. 4 seed Palmyra in a District 3-AA quarterfinal match, Rhein led her No. 12 seed Golden Knights in the first game with crisp sets and chased down several difficult balls to keep points alive.
"She is a great setter. She hurt us the first time we saw her earlier this year," Palmyra coach Clark Sheaffer said later of Rhein. "She played awesome."
Rhein's solid play helped Eastern capture the first game. It appeared the Knights were well own their way to another upset after defeating No. 5 seed York Suburban, 3-0, last Saturday. But the success would be short-lived. Palmyra responded by taking the next three games to score a 3-1 victory, 15-25, 25-12, 25-16, 25-21.
"Problems that happened earlier in the season returned tonight," Eastern coach Jennifer Reichard said. "A lot of miscommunication and looking around. I thought we got past that, but it resurfaced tonight."
Rhein, who will be playing for NCAA Division I College of Charleston (S.C.) next year, finished with team-highs in digs (11) and assists (10) to go along with nine kills and four aces. Teammates Erin Kalke (eight digs, three assists, two kills, one ace) and Lauren Reichard (11 kills, four blocks) also paced the Knights.
"I think it was just a game of who got on top first in each set," Rhein said. "In the first game we came out and were ready to go. They had more consistent games in the second through fourth games."
The fourth game went back and forth until Palmyra (18-2) opened up a 19-15 advantage. Eastern staged one last comeback to pull within one, 22-21, before Palmyra scored the final four points to seal the win.
"At this point in the year when you're in districts you can't afford to go out there and make mistakes," Reichard said. "Some key players didn't step up like they normally would. Unfortunately Palmyra capitalized on that. They're a really aggressive team and a smart team."
Palmyra, in its third year as a varsity program, advanced to the district semifinals for the first time. Reichard said the Cougars have noticeably improved since Eastern ousted them in the district quarterfinals two years ago.
"We actually played them earlier in the season in a tournament at Manheim Central and they beat us," Reichard said. "They're a tough team. A hard-serving team."
The third-place squad from York-Adams Division II, Eastern finished the year with a 9-7 overall record.
"We played our hearts out," Rhein said. "They just played better."
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.