York Catholic tops Delone Catholic in season-opening volleyball match

Ryan Vandersloot
For the York Dispatch

It’s not typical for two state-ranked girls’ volleyball teams to open the season with a signature rivalry matchup. Unless, of course, those teams are York Catholic and Delone Catholic.

The two parochial rivals have earned the honor of playing one another in the first contest of the York-Adams League Division III regular-season slate for the past five years now. And York Catholic came away with a four-set victory in the 2022 opener on Tuesday.

Whenever those two highly successful programs meet up, however, it’s always a doozy. In fact, if Delone coach Nate Staub had his way, the Irish and Squirettes would face off a half-dozen times in the regular season.

“Sure, it would give (York Catholic coach) Phil (Autrey) and I a little more gray hair and balding, but it would be fun,” Staub said. “It’s always a fun atmosphere and you know what you’re going to get from both sides.”

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Fans, including a large and loud York Catholic student section, packed the gym Tuesday night. The young but talented Squirettes showed why they entered the night ranked No. 6 in the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association poll throughout the night.

But the Irish, who sat just one slot behind Delone at No. 7 in the state rankings, proved that their senior-laden squad was up for the task and then some. York Catholic claimed the first two sets en route to a 25-20, 25-15, 28-30, 25-21 victory.

“It’s always fun,” Autrey said. “Now, it’s good and bad to start the year with this kind of energy in the gym. And, as a coach, you always worry that you could be a little more prepared, but both teams had the same amount of time. So we are kind of playing even there.”

The skill and experience of the Irish proved to be a big key in the triumph. Senior outside hitter Adeline Phillips tallied 12 kills, while junior opposite Ashley Patterson added 10 more in the victory.

York Catholic's Delaney Murphy, left, hits the ball across the net while Trinity's Olivia Zimmerman defends during PIAA District III, Class 2-A girls' volleyball championship action at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Trinity would win the title game 3-0. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The Irish also played at a slightly quicker pace, which gave Delone's defense some trouble throughout the contest.

“Our experience, I think, really did help us out tonight,” Autrey said. “We had some girls really step up who didn’t have a lot of varsity experience, but that’s a testament to our girls that have played varsity for two or three years to kind of shepherd them on the court a bit.”

While fun and helpful in deciding the Division III champion, Tuesday’s battle was less significant than many may believe it to be. The true prize for both sides is a coveted berth into the PIAA Class 2-A playoffs in two months. The results from a regular-season clash will only decide seeding for the District 3 Class 2-A tournament, in which only one team – the District 3 champion – will earn that ticket to states.

Thus, both programs have loaded their regular-season slates with high-caliber and big-school competition. The Irish have perennially tough rival West York on the regular-season slate in addition to clashes with Sacred Heart (No. 1 in Class 1-A) and Holy Redeemer (No. 10 in Class 2-A).

Similarly, Delone has Dallastown and York Suburban on the schedule as well as Berks Catholic and Bethlehem Catholic (No. 10 in Class 3-A). The Squirettes also scrimmaged defending Class 3-A champ Spring Grove (No. 5 in Class 3-A) in the preseason.

“Both of our nonleague schedules are really tough,” Autrey said. “And why not? I feel I have a deep enough team where playing that kind of schedule won’t wear everyone down. And with us in 2-A, we sort of already know we’re not going to be on the bubble for districts, so getting to see good competition during the season will prepare us for the postseason.

“That’s better than just trying to go undefeated, which is never our goal. Sure, it would be nice, but it’s never the goal, because once the playoffs come, everyone is undefeated.”