Missing a game is always a big letdown for any competitive high school athlete.
Missing an entire season?
Well, that can be downright brutal.
Unfortunately, that's just the situation that West York girls' volleyball standout Julia Rill faced after missing her entire junior season following an ACL injury.
Rill, however, returned with a vengeance for her senior season — a season that ended with a PIAA Class 3-A state championship for the Bulldogs.
Rill’s comeback performance, which included leading her team in almost every offensive statistical category, made her the hands-down choice by the York-Adams League Division II girls’ volleyball coaches as the division’s player of the year.
Dover senior Emma Davis was named top top player in D-I, while Delone Catholic junior Maddie Clabaugh took home the same honors in D-III.
West York coach Joe Ramp knew first-hand just how tough it was for Rill to sit idly as her Bulldog teammates advanced all the way to the PIAA Class 3-A semifinals without her in 2017.
“Last year was really mentally tough on her,” Ramp said. “She kept saying to me, ‘Joe, I don’t really feel like a part of the team,’ but I kept telling her that she was definitely part of the team.”
There were no such questions this year. Rill, who was one of West York's leaders as a sophomore, may have been the one missing ingredient that pushed the Bulldogs (28-1) over the top this season.
Could a healthy Rill have helped West York reach the state final a season ago?
“Probably, yeah,” Ramp said of his senior, who finished the year with 264 kills, 159 digs, 42 aces and a 25 percent hitting percentage.
Ramp certainly has enjoyed his time coaching Rill, both at the club and high school level, the past several years. According to Ramp, the one key attribute that separated Rill from the pack was her quiet competitiveness.
“Julia had a little bit of a friendly battle with (West York standout) Gianna (Krinock) because they play the same position,” Ramp said. “And she just wanted to be better than Gianna because Gianna had that extra year of playing over her. So Jules kept battling and improving in every aspect of the game, and I think at the end of the year she surpassed Gianna in all categories — hitting percentage, kills, aces, digs. It was a nice little battle between them, but a very friendly battle.”
Friendly is a good way to describe Rill, and it's certainly something that Ramp admires about his standout. Still, he sometimes wishes that she wasn’t always so friendly.
“There isn’t a mean bone in that child,” Ramp said. “She comes from a great family, but sometimes I wished that she did (have some meanness). Back in the Palmyra match during the season Jules blasted a girl down the line right in the face. I mean it was a rocket. But she just ducks down under the net immediately and says to the girl, ‘I’m so sorry. Are you OK?’ Very apologetic, and that is Julia Rill.”
Ramp wasn’t really a fan of Rill’s reaction in the moment.
“I yelled at her for it,” he said. “I said ‘Jules, what are you doing? Wait until after the match. During the match, you’re an enemy.’”
While Rill led her team to a state title, both Davis and Clabaugh helped their respective teams to the state playoffs as well.
Davis a force for Dover: Davis, a 6-plus footer who played on the outside for the Eagles, gave her team’s opponents fits trying to defend against her. She led her team with 17 kills in its PIAA Class 3-A first-round victory over Somerset.
“It was very, very exciting news,” said Davis, who plans to attend Juniata College to play volleyball while majoring in pre-med.
Dover coach Brett Hoffman said improvements in his standout’s defensive game helped draw the attention of the other Y-A D-I coaches.
“Her size helps, but she really did some things in the back row,” he said. “And a lot of people are wondering what I was doing putting her in the back row, but she’s an athletic kid and I knew that she could do it. And she really needed to do it for our team. We just didn’t have enough depth.”
While Davis was honored to win the award, the Dover senior was just beaming when she talked about her team and its success this season. The Eagles finished at 16-8.
“As a team I think that we all amazed ourselves at how well we could do,” she said. “We were also pushing ourselves like, ‘we can make districts, we can make states’ and to have it come true was like unreal.”
Clabaugh did it all for Delone: Clabaugh’s dominance was well observed by the D-III coaches. The left-hander was a force at the service line, in the back row and at the net.
The junior led Delone to a D-III co-championship as well as the District 3 2-A title and a PIAA 2-A state semifinal appearance.
The Squirettes finished the season at 23-4, which included a berth in the Y-A League title game vs. West York.
Clabaugh was a leader throughout Delone's postseason run, including a 15-kill performance vs. rival York Catholic in the District 3 2-A championship match.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.
YORK-ADAMS LEAGUE GIRLS' VOLLEYBALL ALL-STARS
Player of the Year: Emma Davis, Sr, OH, Dover.
Linnea Prudell, Sr, S, Central York
Alexa Shorts, Jr, OH, Central York
Tatiana Matuszweski, Sr, MH, Dallastown
Abby Diehl, Sr, S, Dover
Madisyn McMaster, Sr, RS, South Western
Ali St. Rose, Jr, OH, South Western
Alexis Southivong, Soph, L, Central York
Lexie Kallagonis, Sr, L, Dallastown
Izzy Ream, Soph, S, Dallastown
Lydia Stump, Sr, OH, Dallastown
Chayce Hoffman, Sr, OH, Dover
Kaylynn Zeigler, Jr, OH, Spring Grove
Megan Wolf, Sr, OH, South Western
Player of the Year: Julia Rill, Sr, OH, West York
Sarah Moore, Soph, OH, Eastern York
Gianna Krinock, Sr, OH, West York
Tesia Thomas, Jr, MH, West York
Lauren Guyer, Jr, S, York Suburban
Eliana Rodgers, Fr, OH, York Suburban
Natalie Saxton, Jr, MH, York Suburban
Olivia Koicuba, Sr, L, Eastern York
Katie Lehman, Sr, S, Eastern York
Tess Lampe, Sr, OH, Gettysburg
Torrin Kelley, Jr, S, New Oxford
Emma Sielig, Jr, OH, Susquehannock
Kambrie Hepler, Jr, L, West York
Taylor Morley, Sr, S, West York
Morgan Dobbeck, Sr, OH, Eastern York
Abby Smith, Soph, MH, Eastern York
Morgan Adams, Jr, MH, New Oxford
Sierra Schwartz, Sr, OH, New Oxford
Elizabeth Mooney, Jr, OH, York Suburban
Player of the Year: Maddie Clabaugh, Jr, OH, Delone Catholic.
Brooke Lawyer, Jr, OH, Delone Catholic
Molly Raville, Sr, S, Delone Catholic
Allyson Montour, Sr, MH, Hanover
Jess Dubar, Sr, MH, Littlestown
Hope Leavy-Gaskins, Soph, OH, York Catholic
McKenna Walker, Sr, L, York Catholic
Haley Laughman Dull, Sr, L, Bermudian Springs
Hailey Madara, Jr, S, Bermudian Springs
Emily Miller, Sr, MH, Delone Catholic
Lauren Trummer, Sr, L, Delone Catholic
Emma Blankenship, Sr, L, Littlestown
Megan Daugherty, Sr, S, York Catholic
Bella Kepner, Sr, OH, York Catholic
Breela Farley, Sr, MH, Bermudian Springs
Nancy Hernandez, Fr, OH, Hanover
Peytan Gullickson, Jr, S, Littlestown
Madeline Walker, Soph, S, York Catholic
Zoe Falzone, Sr, L, York Tech