Unbeaten Central York girls' volleyball team puts its focus on championship goals

  • The Central York girls' volleyball team is 7-0 overall this season and 6-0 in York-Adams Division I.
  • The Panthers, however, have not won a York-Adams League playoff crown since 1985.
  • Winning a league playoff title is one of several championship goals for the Panthers this season.

EMIGSVILLE — On occasion, certain team goals can mean more to the players than their coaches.

Alexa Shorts is one of the leading players on the unbeaten Central York girls' volleyball team. DISPATCH FILE PHOTO

While those instances are rare, there is one sport in the York-Adams League where it seems to occur the most — volleyball.

To be more specific, the York-Adams League playoff volleyball championship.

Both the boys’ and girls’ volleyball leagues hold tournaments to determine a true league champion.

Some, if not most, of the coaches around the league, however, view the tournament as more of a warm-up for District 3 play, rather than a must-have goal.

That brings us to the Central York girls’ volleyball team.

Looking to extend their string of Division I titles to five this season, the Panther girls and coaches all agree that winning the division is goal No. 1. The club is on course to achieve that goal. They are the only unbeaten team in D-I at 6-0 (7-0 overall).

While coach Nate Ocasio wouldn’t mind winning the league playoff title, in his mind it ranks lower on the totem pole, below winning the division, winning the district and possibly winning the state championship.

The Central girls, however, have slightly different thoughts. They all see the banner in the gym highlighting the last time a Central girls’ volleyball team won the league championship — 1985.

Linnea Prudell sets the ball for the Central York girls' volleyball team. DISPATCH FILE PHOTO

None of them can remember that year simply because none of them were alive.

With the level of competition in D-I not as fierce this year as it has been in the past, the Panthers have been a little over-shadowed by state-ranked teams such as York Suburban and West York in D-II and Delone Catholic in D-III. So the thought of knocking off one or more of those teams in the league playoffs is certainly something that the Central girls are looking forward to after the regular season concludes.

“I know that for most of the past couple of years that Division I teams haven’t even been in the finals,” Aubrey Rentzel said. “Like last year it was West York and Delone and they are Division II and Division III. So I think that it’s kind of our turn to show up.”

Winning the division would guarantee the Panthers an automatic berth into the eight-team league playoffs. Unlike the past, when the winners of the playoff match-ups determined District 3 playoff berths, for the last decade the tournament has been about local bragging rights.

Perhaps that sentiment developed simply because the winner of D-I almost always was the odds-on favorite to prevail. at least until recently. From 2002 to 2011, a D-I team won the title for all but one year. Outside of Red Lion’s title back in 2016, all of the titles captured since 2011 have come from teams in either D-II or D-III.

Rentzel and her teammates are hoping to have a chance to change that come mid-October.

“Coach looks at it as a tournament for us to get better,” Rentzel said. “But for any tournament or match that we go into, we want to have the mindset of winning. Now I know that West York and Suburban are getting a lot more publicity and they are very good teams, but we know that we are too. Now we aren’t focusing on making that known, but if it is known that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.”

While the Central girls are unbeaten at the midway point of the regular season, that doesn't mean that everything with the team so far has been perfect. That’s why Ocasio focuses so much on getting better each and every night more than checking off eventual goals.

Looking for better starts: One major area of concern for the Panthers has been the way they have started in matches. For whatever reason, the Central girls seem to trail early in matches. For example, in their 3-1 triumph over second-place Dover (5-1) last week, they trailed early in Set 1.

“We started off kind of slow, which we have a trend of doing,” Rentzel said. “We start out slow in matches but then work back, so when we get to the third or fourth set we start to find our groove.”

Rentzel and her teammates have been working on fixing that ever since. The good news is that they may have found what they were looking for Tuesday when they got off to a quick start en route to a 3-0 victory over Red Lion.

“Against Red Lion we came out strong,” Rentzel said. “We got into the groove immediately. So it’s definitely just a mental thing.”

In that Red Lion victory, setter Linnea Prudell (29 assists) and Alexa Shorts (10 kills) played key roles in the victory, just as they have for most the season.

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com.