EMIGSVILLE — For the really great teams, it always seems as if the biggest players make the biggest plays at the biggest times.
For the West York girls’ volleyball team Saturday night in the District 3 Class 3-A final against defending champion Palmyra, that was most definitely the case.
Junior Alayna Harris came up with a pair of big kills on back-to-back plays to help the Bulldogs take command in Set 5 against the Cougars.
Fellow junior Tesia Thomas recorded her biggest kill of the night to get her team to within a point of the title.
And then it was senior Gianna Krinock who smashed home the final point, setting off a huge celebration on the court at Central York High School as the Bulldogs finally claimed the 3-A title after a thrilling 25-18, 20-25, 25-23, 23-25, 15-10 victory.
“It just felt so good when that ball hit the ground,” Thomas said of Krinock’s kill. “I know that when Gianna was getting set, I was just screaming ‘DOWN!’ to just end this match right here.”
After falling to the Cougars in the previous two district draws, to finally come out on top against one of its newest and best rivals was incredible to everyone on the West York sideline.
“I feel that we worked harder for this than we did the past two years,” Thomas said. “We really wanted it so we didn’t have to keep repeating what we had done in the past.”
Thomas, Harris lead way: While it was Krinock, a senior, who put the match away, it was West York’s two middle hitters, juniors Thomas and Harris, that really stepped it up Saturday. Thomas finished with a team-best 15 kills while Harris had a huge night with 12 kills.
“We motivate each other,” Thomas said of her relationship with Harris. “We’re both middles and we’re both good friends so we have to play for each other. We don’t really compete with each other, but we want to be as effective as possible.”
Despite coming out on the wrong end of the desired result, Palmyra coach Clark Sheaffer still appreciated how close and entertaining it was to see two of the top-five teams in the 3-A state rankings (according to the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association) battle back and forth all night.
“What I like about West York is that they are a well-balanced and well-coached team,” Sheaffer said. “We knew it was going to be a challenge. We beat them at their house in five (during the regular season) and then beat them in a tournament and it’s something to beat anybody three times.”
If prevailing over backyard rival Dover in the semifinals was a big relief for Bulldogs coach Joe Ramp, Saturday’s marathon contest vs. Palmyra was an even bigger one.
“Palmyra did a fantastic job,” Ramp said. “We didn’t have an answer for some of the blocking issues that we had, but at the end of the night we persevered.”
Beating Palmyra for the district title, the school’s first since winning the 3-A title back in 1987, checked off one of the final items on West York’s do-to list for the season.
“This is the one that we circle every single year,” Ramp said of games against the Cougars. “There are four teams that we have on our regular (schedule) – Suburban, Palmyra, Suburban again and Lower Dauphin. And then when we get to districts we circle Palmyra again. This is what we wanted. We wanted our rematch, we wanted to go at them.”
Now on to states: Ramp and his team will now prepare to embark on their third-straight PIAA 3-A venture. The previous two seasons have ended in the state semifinals at the hands of District 11 champ Allentown Central Catholic.
The good news for the Bulldogs (24-1) is that this time around they will begin their trek on a better layout. As the District 3 champ, West York won’t have to travel too far when its takes on District 2 champ, Greater Nanticoke (17-2), in the first round of the state bracket at 7 Tuesday evening at Northern York.
The better news is that they avoid a showdown with ACC in the first round. The District 3 3-A runner-up was already set to take on the District 11 champ in the opening round. By beating Palmrya, that means that Ramp’s team will not have to take on either ACC or Palmrya until the semifinals.
While Ramp would surely love to win a state title with this team, he feels as if the state draw is more of a bonus than anything else.
“After (districts) it’s just ‘let’s see what we can do,’” Ramp said. “There’s no real pressure behind them. Let’s just go out there and have fun and take care of business.”
Taylor McInerney led the Cougars (17-3) with 23 kills on the evening.
Dover claimed a berth for the PIAA state playoffs next week with a 3-0 sweep of Garden Spot (25-23, 25-20, 25-20) in the third-place District 3 3-A contest before West York’s match. In the first round of the state playoffs, Dover will face District 5 champ Somerset (16-3) at Winber at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.