EXETER TOWNSHIP — Delone Catholic girls’ volleyball coach Jason Leppo didn’t want to hear the excuses during the regular season.
One excuse was: Leppo’s club graduated a ton of talent from last year’s PIAA Class 2-A runner-up squad.
Another excuse was: It just wasn't Delone's year after losses to York Suburban and York Catholic in the regular season, and tournament defeats at Wilson and Cumberland Valley.
As it turns out, Delone didn't need any excuses during a standout postseason that included a York-Adams League runner-up finish and a District 3 Class 2-A championship.
For the Squirettes to be back in the PIAA Class 2-A semifinals for a second year in a row says a lot about the character and mettle of Leppo's club. To Leppo, it showed resiliency, especially when his team was backed up against the proverbial wall.
That mettle was tested pretty good Tuesday night against District 2 champ Holy Redeemer. After dropping Sets 2 and 3, the Squirettes were again up against the wall. After evening the match by winning Set 4, the Delone girls had a chance to return to the state final once more.
It just didn’t happen.
The Royals seized momentum early in Set 5 and never let it go. Holy Redeemer claimed a 23-25, 25-13, 25-23, 18-25, 15-10 triumph.
Leave it to Leppo to sum it up best.
“The clock just struck midnight,” the Delone coach said. “When you keep putting yourselves up in those back-against-the-wall situations, that’s tough.”
Holy Redeemer’s big duo of Skylar Osenkarski and Sarah Liskowicz provided lots of trouble defensively for Delone. But balance was also an issue, with the Redeemer girls able to keep the Delone girls guessing.
“This was a much bigger game of runs than normal side-out ball,” Leppo said. “But I think that tends to happen more at this time of year when teams start to rely on their horses a little bit more.”
That was true of the Squirettes, who got big nights from junior standouts Brooke Lawyer (12 kills) and Maddie Clabaugh (15 kills). The Royals were just able to get more from their role players, which made a big difference.
“They are able to set a couple of different people,” Leppo said. “And we knew it was going to be a tough match-up.”
The Royals, who fell to Delone in five sets earlier this season, were also able to control the middle and their first-contacts much better than in the previous showdown.
“We needed to serve, pass and control first-contact,” Leppo said. “When we did we were in good shape, but when we didn’t … I don’t think we got a quality swing until the fourth or fifth point.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.