West York girls’ volleyball head coach Joe Ramp didn’t figure to still be coaching the Bulldogs at this point.
Now entering his eighth season at the helm, Ramp believed that his stay at the high school level would only be for a year or two.
Thankfully for the West York girls, and Ramp himself, his initial expectations have done an entire 180. The same can be said of Ramp's accomplishments with the Bulldog program, which went through a new coach seemingly every other year before Ramp showed up.
Now the West York program is unquestionably one of the best in the entire state. Following back-to-back PIAA Class 3-A semifinal appearances the past two years, Ramp and his experienced square are hoping that this year will be the one when they take that next step forward.
“The girls want to get to the finals,” Ramp said. “This year’s team is just like last year’s team. We only graduated two seniors. And this year we have Julia Rill back and she’s healthy and ready to rock and roll.”
In addition to Rill, who was a key starter as a sophomore before tearing her ACL in the spring before her junior campaign, the Bulldogs return the reigning York-Adams League Division II Player of the Year in junior Tesia Thomas, fellow junior Alayna Harris as well as seniors Gianna Krinock and Taylor Morley.
Morley set to be setter: Such firepower should keep the Bulldogs, who finished 27-3 a season ago, back in contention despite the loss of setter Trilby Kite and outside hitter Kate Tate.
“Right now Taylor Morley is setting and so far she’s been doing a good job,” Ramp said. “She was our DS (defensive specialist) last year, but before that she’s always been a setter. She’s been training hard and doing whatever we ask.”
While Morley may be inexperienced as a starting setter, her job will certainly be made a lot easier with Thomas, Harris, Krinock and Rill on her flanks. Thomas led the Bulldogs in kills despite having nearly 300 less opportunities than Tate. That was mostly because Thomas played in the middle while Tate was able to play on the outside.
Thomas may move outside: Moving Thomas to the outside from time to time could prove to be a game-changer for Ramp and the 'Dogs this year. Thomas worked hard with her club team as an outside attacker, so Ramp is eager to find out first-hand if following that lead would benefit his club.
“She’s working hard,” Ramp said. “She’s doing well. Her goal is to get to the outside, ... but we’re still working on that and training her for that. She really wants to be an all-around player.”
The middle has suited Thomas well during her first two years at the varsity level. Her quickness plays a huge part, helping her slam down quick sets.
On the outside, however, more patience is necessary. The pace of the sets are not nearly as quick as in the middle.
“The ones that play on the outside have to know the defense and have to have a solid platform with passing and they have to be a lot more patient,” Ramp said. “So we’re trying to transition her with a more-patient Tesia than one that’s just ‘let’s go.'”
Rill returns: For Rill, who was one of the club’s top hitters as a sophomore, the return after missing her entire junior season has been a struggle. It was hard for her to watch as the team came agonizingly close to earning a berth in the state finals.
Fortunately for Ramp, he was able to aid in the healing process a bit more directly. That’s because he’s not only the head coach at West York, but also the head coach for the Yorktowne 17-and-under club team, which features Rill as a member.
“I had to keep telling her, ‘look, it’s almost over and club season is just around the corner.’ So the good news was that I was able to coach her during club season and work her slowly back into shape,” Ramp said.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.