EMIGSVILLE — The buildup to Saturday’s District 3 Class 2-A girls’ volleyball final has been growing ever since the York Catholic girls knocked off their parochial rivals from Delone Catholic in their second showdown of the regular season.
After playing the Squirettes tough the past handful of seasons, but never winning a match, the Irish were aiming to repeat that feat with a pinnacle triumph in the district final.
The Delone girls, however, had their own score to settle.
Losing their first York-Adams League Division III contest under coach Jason Leppo when the Irish scored a 3-1 triumph in late September, the Squirettes were out to make their own statement.
Unfortunately for coach Philip Autrey’s squad, when the Delone girls are focused, it’s very tough to distract them.
Playing arguably their best match of the season, the two-time defending district champs took it to their rivals. Behind 15 kills apiece from outside hitters Maddie Clabaugh and Brooke Lawyer, the Squirettes claimed an impressive 25-19, 25-15, 25-20 triumph at Central York High School. It was Delone's 13th District 3 girls' volleyball title — the most in district history.
The two teams had shared the Y-A Division III title during the regular season.
“Tonight (Delone) just had the better athletes that just played really well,” Autrey said. “Of course we’re disappointed to lose, but if you’re going to lose, the way that I want to lose is by getting beat and not by us just losing. And we just got beat today.”
The loss, which brought about more than a few tears from both the players as well as Autrey afterward, was less about who they lost to then the fact that the program’s very successful season is over. Because District 3 is only awarded one berth into the PIAA bracket, only the district champion’s season continues.
“The emotion is not because we lost, but because it’s over,” Autrey said while fighting away his own tears. “It’s been 25 years since I had a group of seniors like this. It’s definitely hard because of what we asked of them over these last four years.”
Autrey’s emotions are easier to understand knowing that one of them was his niece, McKenna Walker. The other six are Kaylee Bandow, Megan Miller, Bella Kepner, Lydia Fullerton, Megan Daugherty and Milli Kearse.
“Having a niece on the team and watching her grow and develop is especially special,” he said. “But I feel that all of these girls on the team are my nieces because when they were in sixth grade I was watching them playing basketball together. And I thought about if I took this job at York Catholic that these are the girls that I would be working with. And I knew that they were a special group.”
Hope Leavy-Gaskins led the Irish with seven kills, while Megan Daugherty dished out 12 assists. McKenna Walker led the defense with 23 digs.
While the Irish (18-3) have played their final match of the season, the Squirettes (21-3) will prepare for the opening round of the PIAA tournament. Delone will face District 6 runner-up Central Cambria (20-3) at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Northern York High School.
“Yeah, that was the best that we played to this point this season,” Leppo said. “But we have try again next week and we have to try to be even better then.”
Delone setter Molly Ravine finished with 33 assists while libero Lauren Trummer finished with 26 digs and two aces for the Squirettes.
Another Hanover-area school, South Western, will advance to the PIAA playoffs in Class 4-A despite suffering a 3-0 loss (25-18, 25-21, 25-15) to Hempfield (19-1) in the district third-place match at Dallastown Saturday night.
In its state opener on Tuesday, South Western (14-6) will take on District 11 champion Parkland at 7 p.m. at Catasaqua High School.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.