York's McKenna Walker enjoys wild ride to NCAA title with Juniata volleyball
The former York Catholic star was one of three local standouts that helped the Eagles lift the hardware.
It’s not exceptionally common for a former York-Adams League standout to play for an NCAA national championship, let alone win one. It’s even rarer for three former Y-A standouts to do so at once.
But that’s exactly what happened last weekend when the Juniata College women’s volleyball team claimed the 2022 NCAA Division III title.
The trio of senior McKenna Walker (York Catholic) and sophomores Sydney Ohl (Dallastown) and Lexy Bloss (Dallastown) played key roles in helping the Eagles complete a 34-1 season that culminated with the program’s third national crown Saturday in a 3-0 victory over Trinity University (Texas) the UPMC Cooper Field House in Pittsburgh.
“That is really cool,” Walker said. “I’ve never really thought about it honestly until now ... but it is actually very cool that we’re all three from York.”
Winning a national title is quite different from winning a league, district or even a state title in high school. Walker, who was a freshman when the York Catholic girls’ volleyball team won the District 3 Class 1A title back in 2015, certainly appreciates the differences. Talent alone could carry a team in the high school ranks, but it takes much, much more than that at the collegiate level.
“It’s been awesome,” said Walker, who was one of the Eagles' captains this year. “This is what we’ve been working for all season. At the beginning of the season, our goal was the win the NCAA Tournament. We were all pretty locked in and just working hard to keep on winning.”
It’s been an amazing ride for Walker, Ohl and Bloss this year. Ohl, a sophomore, finished with a team-best 19 digs and three aces in the title match, while Walker tallied 10 digs in the triumph.
While Bloss didn’t play in the victory, Walker said she was helpful in pushing the entire team during practices, one of which came earlier in the morning Saturday.
“I dig and that’s about it,” Walker said of her role on the team. “But Sydney is the ace queen. Her serve is crazy. In practice, I hate trying to pass off of her serves, but it’s great for us in games because she can get the other team out of system, which is what we want. And Lexy is the hardest-working person I know. I just know that she’s going to do amazing things for the Juniata teams in the future.”
Walker and her teammates enjoyed a hectic Sunday that included the Juniata community welcoming the team back.
“Sunday we drove home from Pittsburgh, and when we got back to campus, all of our friends and a lot of the campus — like coaches and professors — they were all there waiting for us,” Walker said. “I got to carry the trophy off the bus and it was just the best and (most) overwhelming feeling ever. It’s kind of hard to put it into words, but it was very emotional for all of us.”
While Walker was riding on cloud nine after Saturday’s victory, it would have been cloud 10 if York Catholic, which is coached by her uncle Phil Autrey, would have won the PIAA Class 2A title earlier in the day.
“I feel bad,” Walker said of York Catholic’s loss in the final to Freeport. “But I think it’s really awesome that they got there. I wish they would have won too, because that would have been awesome.”