South Western girls' volleyball comes back, knocks off Spring Grove in 5 sets

Ryan Vandersloot
For the York Dispatch
Southwestern celebrating a point over Spring Grove during their girls volleyball match in Spring Grove on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.

SPRING GROVE — One of the hallmarks the PIAA Class 3A state champion Spring Grove girls’ volleyball team a season ago was resiliency. The Rockets were put to the test several times over the course of their history-making campaign. And whenever push came to shove, they were ready with an answer.

The loss of several key standouts from that squad — including all-state honorees setter Maddie Ruhland and twin sisters Neveah and Hailey Wolfe — have created a different dynamic with this year’s crew. Up until Thursday evening, however, the Rockets were able to answer the call in each of their five matches this season.

That magic of last year failed to show up in the crunch Thursday when the Rockets hosted York-Adams Division I rival South Western. After an emphatic third-set triumph earned the Papertown girls a 2-1 lead in the contest, the Mustangs were the ones that answered the call. South Western rebounded by claiming the last two sets to earn a 25-23, 23-25, 12-25, 25-21, 15-12 victory.

The loss was the first for the Rockets (5-1 overall, 2-1 Division I) since they were defeated in the York-Adams tournament final by York Suburban last season.

“Momentum shifted and it certainly wasn’t in our favor,” Spring Grove coach Liz Zeigler said. “We just have to show that same sense of urgency, even if we get tired, like we did all of last year.”

While resiliency was a calling card for the Rockets last year, the same could be said of South Western's girls so far this season. The Mustangs (5-1, 2-1) entered Tuesday's match against Dallastown unbeaten but came out flat and fell in five sets to the Wildcats.

South Western coach Cathy Harman felt her team’s poor play Tuesday, as well as an uninspiring practice Wednesday, may have resonated with the squad on the bus ride to the game Thursday.

“We talked about resetting,” Harman said. “Like, turn your phone off and turn it back on again. Just totally reset and be ready to go. And some of the girls actually said (after the match), ‘Coach, we reset and we actually updated, too.' We got ourselves ready and we played more like a unit as opposed to individuals.”

The Mustangs were led by a trio of attackers on the stat sheet Thursday. Lexie Cornett led the team with 11 kills, while middle hitter Lilly Sullivan (nine) and outside hitter Kaitlyn Grempler (eight) also had solid nights.

Harman also attributed the turnaround to a more consistent placement with her team’s serves in Sets 4 and 5. While not generating many aces — the Mustangs finished with just six for the contest — the precision of the serves forced Spring Grove into passing errors that led to less forceful attacks.

“We certainly served tougher in Sets 4 and 5,” Harman said. “We actually were hitting the spots that I called more often than earlier in the match and that really got them out of system and worked to our favor.”

McKenzie Boyer led Spring Grove with 29 kills, while Alayna Zeigler tallied 10 in the loss. Aubrey Zeigler dished out 19 assists and Mylie Ormond finished with 16 assists for the Rockets.

While the victory was meaningful for the Mustangs and the setback stung for the Rockets, the truth of the matter is that every Division I match this season will be a battle. Central York (2-0, 2-0) is the lone unbeaten so far in the campaign, but the Rockets, Mustangs and Wildcats all still have dates with the Panthers to come. In fact, both of these squads will see Central next week — South Western has the panthers at home Tuesday, while the Rockets pay a visit next Thursday.