EXETER TOWNSHIP — The West York girls’ volleyball team has certainly lived up to an old adage — the third time has definitely been the charm for the Bulldogs.
After falling in the District 3 Class 3-A playoffs in each of the previous two seasons, the Bulldogs finally won the district title this year by defeating rival Palmyra.
During those same two campaigns, the West York girls made it all the way to the PIAA semifinals, where they fell to District 11 champion Allentown Central Catholic each time.
Tuesday evening at Exeter Township High School, the Bulldogs finally did what they couldn’t do the last two years.
Led by huge nights from York-Adams Division II Player of the Year Julia Rill (17 kills), Tesia Thomas (14 kills) and Gianna Krinock (12 kills), the West York girls punched their first-ever ticket to the state finals by downing ACC in a thrilling five-set match, 19-25, 25-19, 25-16, 18-25, 16-14.
“This game, right here, was our championship,” West York coach Joe Ramp said. “Whatever happens (Saturday), happens.”
Warren up next in state final: The Bulldogs will now square off Saturday afternoon against District 10 champion Warren, which eliminated reigning 3-A champ Knoch in four sets. That contest will take place at 3:30 p.m. at Cumberland Valley High School near Mechanicsburg.
Tuesday’s motto was all about the "R" word for the West York girls.
“We really just wanted redemption,” Rill said. “We pushed hard and we have a complete group here.”
Having three hitters register double-digits in the kill column is the biggest evidence of West York’s completeness as a team.
“Offensively, I think it was just a complete and well-rounded effort on part of all of the girls,” Ramp said.
It wasn't easy: That’s not to say that it was easy by any stretch of the imagination. After dropping the first set, the Bulldogs offense was able to kick things into gear in Sets 2 and 3. But with a chance to put it away in the fourth game, the Vikettes rallied behind their leader, Rachel Hess.
Hess, a LaSalle recruit, came up with big points to shift the momentum into her team’s favor in Set 4.
“Their No. 8 (Hess) is just ridiculous,” Ramp said. “I’ve seen her in club season the past couple of years and she is a very special player. She’s an elite player.”
Pivotal Set 5: Trailing 7-5 in Set 5, the Bulldogs were able to seemingly seize control by taking eight of the next nine points to hold what would typically be a comfortable five-point (13-8) lead.
That lead, however, didn’t last. ACC scored the next five points, sandwiched around a pair of timeouts by Ramp, to even the score. After West York went up 14-13, the Vikettes evened it up again at 14-14.
A rare hitting error by Hess was followed up by a roll hit from Rill in the back row that the ACC defense couldn’t corral, setting off a frantic celebration on the court.
According to Rill, that final hit was one that Ramp had lectured her against.
“Joe told me not to roll,” Rill said with a smile. “I just felt like I hadn’t did it in a while, so I did. It was just like, in that moment, that I just have to end it, we have to win and we did.”
New territory: Now the Bulldogs will embark on a distinctly new venture — a state championship match.
“During the state tournament I just told them that I had one more goal for them to focus on,” Ramp said. “And that was getting to the state final. Leave it on the court. We’re always the underdog. We’re little West York, who in just recent years has been excelling, but we finally got the monkey off the back. And the way we played in 2, 3 and most of 5, we can beat mostly anybody.”
Warren enters the state final as the No. 4 team in the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association Class 3-A state rankings, while West York is No. 3. ACC had been No. 2, while Knoch had been No. 1.
West York improved to 27-1, while ACC fell to 16-6.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.