Before the season began back in August, it was clear that the West York girls’ volleyball players had high expectations.
“The girls want to get to the (state) finals,” West York coach Joe Ramp said at the time. “This year’s team is just like last year’s team. We only graduated two seniors. And this year we have Julia Rill back and she’s healthy and ready to rock and roll.”
While the West York girls were certainly ready to rock and roll, it was another "R" word that truly defined their season — redemption.
The Bulldogs capped off an historic season that included several redeeming triumphs by capturing the school’s first-ever PIAA Class 3-A title Saturday afternoon at Cumberland Valley High School. The West York girls cruised to a surprisingly easy 25-22, 25-15, 25-20 triumph over previously undefeated and District 10 champion Warren in the title match.
Validating victory: The fact that the Bulldogs returned to York County Saturday evening with shiny gold medals around their necks only validated the belief in themselves that the West York girls had all along.
There were, however, some doubts along the way, especially with perennial nemesis Palmyra and Allentown Central Catholic lurking in the postseason.
The Cougars, who ruined West York’s chances of capturing a District 3 title the past two years by winning five-set matches in the semifinals in 2016 and the finals in 2017, again got the better of Ramp and his club in a mid-September nonleague showdown.
Little did the West York girls know at the time, but that would be the only time they would taste defeat during a 28-1 campaign.
Proving to be class of Y-A League: Before the Bulldogs could get a chance for revenge against Palmyra, they first had to deal with their foes in the York-Adams League. That included a pair of regular-season clashes with rival and Division II foe York Suburban, who was ranked fourth — or three spots above West York (seventh) in the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association 3-A preseason rankings.
The Bulldogs took care of business both times, including a convincing sweep of the Trojans in the first showdown. That result finally catapulted West York (fifth) past Suburban (seventh) in the coaches' rankings.
An expected third clash with the Trojans never happened. Dover, which ended the season as a top-10 team in the 3-A state rankings, upset Suburban in the Y-A playoffs. The Eagles, who finished second in D-I, took the Bulldogs to four sets in the league semifinals.
Another state-ranked foe awaited West York in the league final — Delone Catholic. The Squirettes, who advanced to the 2-A title game last season, were no match. The Bulldogs swept the match.
Perhaps the best quote of the season about the West York girls was made by Delone coach Jason Leppo after that contest.
“You can hang with them for a while,” Leppo said. “And then you can’t.”
Finally overcoming Palmyra: After cruising to victories over Big Spring, Eastern York and Dover again to reach the district final, the Bulldogs finally got what they were looking for — a rematch with Palmyra.
“I’m excited,” Ramp said after his team’s semifinal victory over Dover. “(Playing Palmyra) is what I wanted. It’s redemption.”
It was only fitting that the Bulldogs secured their redemption — and the program’s second-ever District 3 title — by pulling out victory in a five-set marathon. Gianna Krinock’s match-ending kill finally helped the West York girls get the better of the Cougars in the district playoffs.
One down, one to go.
Getting by ACC: While Palmyra has been West York’s nemesis in district play, the ACC girls have been the same at the state level.
The Vikettes defeated the Bulldogs in the state semifinals en route to the state title in 2016. While the West York girls pushed ACC to five sets a year ago, the District 11 champs prevailed.
After sweeping Greater Nanticoke and Pope John Paul III to reach the 3-A semifinals for a third year in a row, the Bulldogs again got the chance at redemption.
And they took it.
In a back-and-forth match, the two sides needed a fifth set to decide a winner. West York finally prevailed, 16-14, with a kill from Rill sending to the Bulldogs to their first-ever state final.
“We really just wanted redemption,” Rill said afterwards. “We pushed hard and we have a complete group here.”
Emphatic finish: Rill’s words were cemented Saturday when the Bulldogs finished off their impressive season with an emphatic sweep in the 3-A finals.
“This is a truly talented group,” Ramp said. “And they do play for one another. There’s not a He-Man or a Superwoman on this team. Everybody has to perform for us to win.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.