When trying to upset one of the state’s top-ranked teams in the playoffs, two things are key — taking advantage of your opponent's mistakes and executing crisp team play to create your own opportunities.
The fifth-seeded York Catholic girls’ volleyball team did just that on Thursday, Nov. 2.
The result was a 25-13, 25-23, 25-21 victory against top-seed Trinity (19-3) at Central York High School. That moves the Irish (15-5) into Saturday’s District 3 Class 2-A championship match at 3 p.m. Saturday at Dallastown High School. The Shamrocks entered the game ranked seventh in the state in the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association Class 2-A state poll.
Awaiting the Irish in the district final is York-Adams League rival Delone Catholic in what will be a rematch of last season’s Class 2-A championship match. The Irish will be looking to secure their first district crown since 2015. That title came in Class 1-A.
Not only would defeating the Squirettes mean more district hardware for the trophy case, it would also qualify the Irish for the upcoming PIAA Class 2-A state tournament.
“It was a team effort,” York Catholic head coach Phillip Autrey said. “We’ve really been working hard on staying consistent and finding the time when we can be really aggressive.”
While York Catholic excelled at playing as a complete unit all night, it was senior middle hitter Abby Pilkey who seemed to provide the biggest moment during her team's surprising sweep. Her kills closed out both the second and third games. She would go on to rack up 12 total on the evening.
Pilkey also provided three momentum-stopping blocks.
Fast start: Things got off to a fast start for the Irish in Game 1, thanks to a pair of lengthy service runs. With the score at 5-4 in favor of the Shamrocks early, York Catholic’s Megan Miller went behind the line to begin the first run.
The Irish would go on to rattle off eight straight points before the Shamrocks could regain service. During that stretch, Miller posted one of her two aces on the night. And Pilkey added two kills to the momentum swing.
Later, with the count now at 16-10 Irish, Megan Daugherty recorded one of her six aces on the night, while the Irish rattled off six straight points before the Shamrocks could answer. Daugherty also ran an effective offense by dishing out 21 assists during the match.
Four of York Catholic’s five losses came during its first five matches to start the season. Since then, Autry credits the development of multiple hitters to complement Pilkey, as well as a renewed commitment to defense and performing in big moments, as being key to his team’s current run.
Valuable experience: The Irish no doubt gained valuable experiences by having early-season battles with three top-10 teams in Trinity, Delone and Holy Redeemer during the first two weeks of the season.
“Our defense did a super job on scramble plays,” Autrey said. “We talk about when you have a lead, sometimes it’s easy to just sit back and wait for the point to end. But they really went out and took it to them. And that’s been the biggest improvement we’ve had as a team; is that when the pressure came, they didn’t falter.”
York Catholic was also the beneficiary of a number of hitting and services errors by Trinity. But, much to their credit, the Irish made the Shamrocks pay dearly for such miscues throughout much of the evening.
The largest lead Trinity would enjoy during any point of the match was a 19-16 lead late in Game 2.
McKenna Walker led the Irish defensively with 10 digs, while Emily Hoffman and Bella Kepner each added eight of their own.
Delone sweeps its way into final: Next up for the Irish is Saturday’s title tilt with second-seeded Delone Catholic.
The Squirettes utilized a trio of hitters in sweeping third-seeded Lancaster Mennonite, 25-14, 25-16, 25-17.
Maddie Clabaugh led the way for Delone with 10 kills, while Emma Malinowski had eight and Autumn Altland recorded seven. Clabaugh also posted four digs and three aces.
Chloe Kindig ran the offense for the Squirettes, while handing out 28 assists to go along with 10 digs and four kills of her own.
The Irish will need a similar effort if they are to pull off another upset of one of Pennsylvania’s top teams. The Squirettes are ranked third in the PVCA Class 2-A rankings.
While the Irish are happy to again be playing for the district championship, they will no doubt enter Saturday’s match-up with a sense of unfinished business.
“Last year, when it was our first year back in the 2-A final, you could tell the girls were sort of happy, it was a nice accomplishment to come back to the district final after being in single A,” Autrey said. “This year, the entire season, the way we’ve played Delone is we respect them, but we’re not afraid of them anymore. …(His Irish players) know what they have to do, which is play real well because that’s one heck of a team, but we know we can compete now.”
Delone swept York Catholic in its two regular-season meetings, winning 3-0 each time.
Reach Elijah Armold at email@example.com.