DILLSBURG — Whenever a high school athletic team makes it to the state tournament, the No. 1 goal is always the same.
Survive and advance.
For the Delone Catholic girls’ volleyball club, that was definitely the case Tuesday evening.
Taking on Central Cambria in a PIAA Class 2-A first-round contest at Northern York High School, the District 3 2-A champion Squirettes were pushed to the limit by the Red Devils. Despite winning the first two sets, the Delone girls were never able to shake a Central Cambria team that was playing in its first-ever PIAA 2-A contest.
Rallying to even the match, the District 6 runner-up Devils came within a point of eliminating last year’s 2-A finalist. The Delone girls, however, showed that when they get backed up against the wall, they come out fighting.
The Squirettes fended off a match point before getting a big ace and then a game-winning kill by Maddie Clabaugh to earn a hard-fought 27-25, 25-22, 21-25, 17-25, 16-14 victory.
Delone (22-3) moves on to the quarterfinals at 1 p.m. Saturday at Gov. Mifflin against District 11 champion Panther Valley, which earned a 3-0 triumph over District 12 runner-up Science Leadership Academy. Delone enters that match ranked No. 4 in the state in 2-A by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association, while Panther Valley is No. 6.
Giving credit to Devils: While Squirettes coach Jason Leppo was clearly relieved to be moving on, he couldn’t say enough about the play of the Red Devil girls (20-4), who made life tough for his squad all night long.
“They have big kids that are athletic and they just make plays,” Leppo said. “Boy, what an incredible fight from their seniors and their team in general. And one thing that I gathered from some of the people that I talked to that knew about this team a little bit said that these kids have played together for a while and they are going to give you all that you can handle.”
Clabaugh comes up big: The Delone girls needed a boost from their leaders and they got it from Clabaugh, who was recently named as the York-Adams League Division III Player of the Year. Clabaugh, who finished with a team-high 18 kills, enjoyed the thrill of pushing and getting pushed on the volleyball court.
“Playing in these games are a lot of fun,” she said. “And it makes you a better player.”
CC coach Jason Layman was proud of his squad.
“Our seniors came through,” Layman said. “I told the girls after Game 2 that anything could happen and they proved that. They battled back and I was proud of the way they played tonight.”
Grimes a menace for Delone: Ashley Grimes was a menace all night for Delone. The CC senior came up with big kills and blocks in key situations.
“She’s played for me in club for three years,” Layman said. “She’s stepped her game up in the second half of the season and became one of our stud hitters there. She controls the net real well and matches up against other middles. She’s probably one of the best middles that I’ve seen throughout the course of our year.”
Experience a key: While Grimes and her teammates were creating nightmares for the Delone girls, the Squirettes had one key trait on their side — experience. Delone’s poise showed up when the CC girls took a 14-13 lead in Set 5.
Brooke Lawyer tied it up with a big kill before Abi Smith served an ace to put Delone ahead 15-14. Then, on match point, Clabaugh used a two-hand finger block to push a ball that hovered over the net to the floor.
Praise for coach: Clabaugh gave her coach a lot of the credit for helping to instill a sense of calm and focus when all the chips are on the line.
“Coach taught us not to be nervous and to enjoy these type of moments,” she said. “These are the type of moments that you enjoy and these are the type of moments that make you better.”
Parkland 3, South Western 0: At Catasaqua High School, the Mustangs fell 25-19, 25-17, 25-20 to the District 11 champion in a PIAA Class 4-A first-round battle. South Western, the fourth-place team from District 3, finished 14-8. The South Western stat leaders were Megan Wolf (seven kills, 13 digs), Jacy Crouse (21 assists, five digs) and Ali St Rose (seven kills, 10 digs).
Wyoming Seminary 3, Bermudian Springs 0: At Crestwood High School, Bermudian saw its season come to a close with a PIAA Class 1-A first-round setback to the District 2 champion. Bermudian, the fourth-place team from District 3, finished at 21-3-1. The Eagles and Wyoming Seminary (18-2-1) were tied at halftime, 0-0.
Montrose 2, Fairfield 1: At Dunmore High School, the Green Knights' season came to a close with a PIAA Class 1-A first-round loss. The District 3 runner-up Knights finished at 20-3. District 2 champ Montrose improved to 19-1. Annabel Anderson had Fairfield's goal.
Moravian Academy 4, York Catholic 1: At Emmaus High School, the Fighting Irish season ended with a PIAA Class 1-A first-round setback to the District 11 champion. York Catholic, the District 3 runner-up, finished at 15-7.
Shamrocks 7, Dallastown 6: On Monday night at Twin Ponds West, Dallastown suffered a narrow setback in a high-scoring affair. Trae Schanberger had two goals and an assist to lead Dallastown, while Camden Schanberger added two goals and Brock Stitley had a goal and two assists. Mitchell Groh had Dallastown's other score. Brady Frey made 27 saves for Dallastown.