The West York girls' volleyball program lost a pair of all-state standouts from their 2018 PIAA Class 3-A state title team.
Despite those losses, however, the Bulldogs' players are still feeling quite optimistic as they attempt to defend their crown.
Most of those positive vibes have everything to do with who the Bulldogs will return this season — most especially all-state performer Tesia Thomas.
Still, West York will have to overcome the graduation of all-state players Julia Rill and Gianna Krinock. Rill was the 2018 York-Adams League Division II Player of the Year.
Thomas, however, is a two-time all-state selection as well as the 2017 Y-A Division II Player of the Year. She was a dominating force as a junior, finishing second on the team in kills behind Rill and was more than a handful on the block and at the service line.
“She is more fluent with her hitting skills now than ever before,” West York head coach Joe Ramp said. “She is pretty much able to hit at any position on the floor and blocking-wise she can pretty much block any position as well.”
An NCAA Division I caliber recruit as a jumper and sprinter in track, Thomas should be even more frightening for the opposition in her final season at West York.
“I think she’s jumping even higher now,” Ramp said. “Physically she looks even stronger and bigger than she was before. I mean, we did farmers' walks, which is like a deadweight lift, and she picked up 300 pounds. I mean she is super-strong.”
Other key returners: Thomas will certainly not be the only Bulldog that opponents will have to worry about this fall. A trio of fellow seniors in libero Kambrie Hepler, middle hitter Alayna Harris and outside hitter Georgianna Kahley return as well.
With some other talented freshmen, sophomores and juniors, the Bulldogs figure to enjoy the same realm of success they’ve grown accustomed to over the past three years.
“I feel that I have a very versatile, athletic team,” Ramp said. “And I know that I have four hitters that can hit pretty much anywhere on the net.”
Looking for a setter: The biggest, and perhaps only, question mark that the Bulldogs have entering the season is at the most important spot on the floor — setter.
Replenishing that position, though, is something that the West York girls have grown accustomed to. It was just two years ago, when Thomas was a sophomore, that all-state setter Trilby Kite led the offense. After Kite’s graduation, Taylor Morley, who Ramp felt should have been an all-state player, stepped into Kite’s shoes and guided the 'Dogs to the 2018 state title.
“We’re training a new setter every year,” Hepler said with a bit of a laugh.
Thomas, who will be playing with her fourth different primary setter this season, doesn’t feel like there will be much of a drop off between this year’s candidates — senior Lydia Newman and freshman M.J. Rupp. The only thing that either player lacks right now is experience.
“I feel that if you look at our setters over the years that you could never really guess what year they are,” Thomas said. “And I think we have that this year. I don’t think anyone can just sit on the bench and say ‘oh, that’s a freshman setter’ or things like that, because their talent level is just so high.”
With hitters such as Thomas, Harris and Kahley up front, the girl who wins the setter job will know that every set will not have to be perfect to get the job done.
Versatility should help: Ramp also feels that his team’s versatility could provide a new wrinkle that might create disruption on the opposition’s defense.
“I think that we might not have a traditional ‘oh, this is going to be your spot’ offense,” he said. “We may be able to move pieces around. So it’s not going to be a ‘oh, you have two middles and two outsides.’”
So how would Ramp describe what fans might see when the season kicks off in early September?
“It’s going to be fun quite frankly,” he said. “And exciting because it’s really going to throw some teams for a real loop.”
Hepler and Thomas are certainly buying into that.
“Yeah, I mean we have someone who can serve and pass and also play middle,” Hepler said. “It feels more open and different and I’m excited to see the different things that we are able to run offensively and defensively. We just have a lot of girls that we can move around from position to position and that makes it exciting.”
“I know with some teams you hear ‘stay for one’ and you can tell where the ball is going to go,” Thomas added. “But with us, the other team should be freaking out because everyone is capable of putting the ball away.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.