With a bevy of outstanding hitters, led by returning all-state selection Tesia Thomas, it’s rare that the discussion surrounding the West York girls’ volleyball team is focused elsewhere.
Tuesday night, however, in the first of at least two showdowns between the defending PIAA Class 3-A state champions and rival York Suburban, the difference was not the West York attack.
Instead, it was the defense and serving of senior libero Kambrie Hepler that proved decisive.
Hepler was at the service line at the conclusion of Sets 2, 3 and 5. Not coincidentally, those proved to be the only sets that the Bulldogs won in what was a thrilling 19-25, 26-24, 25-22, 23-25, 15-11 victory in a battle of York-Adams League Division II unbeatens.
The Bulldogs finished off the first go-round through divisional play with a perfect 7-0 mark, while the Trojans fell to 5-1.
“I may have been serving, but I was just one of six players on our side of the court,” said Hepler, who finished with a team-best six aces for the contest. “I had the first contact and I did it to the best of my ability to be aggressive and keep the ball inbounds.”
Hepler also paced the WY defense with a team-high 19 digs on the night.
"Heart and soul:" Bulldog coach Joe Ramp, however, discussed another intangible that Hepler possesses as a major factor in his team’s victory in a battle of top-10-ranked 3-A squads in the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association poll (Suburban at No. 4 and West York at No. 6).
“Kam is the heart and soul of our team,” Ramp said. “She’s a leader out there on the court. She does what she does defensively, but offensively she’s there telling the hitters what to do and where to go. And then obviously at the service line she’s a great server.”
West York defense shines: Fellow senior Georgianna Kahley nearly matched her teammate with 18 digs. The Bulldog defense, which tallied a combined 64 digs in the triumph, was able to stymie a potent Suburban attack at key moments.
“We knew that Suburban wasn’t going to just hand this game to us,” Hepler said. “On the back of our warmups is #gotgrit and that’s who we are. We all have determination and motivation to try to win that ball.”
Impressed with Trojans: Hepler came away impressed with what she saw from a Suburban side that was coming off a hard-fought loss against Central Dauphin Monday. Sophomore Eliana Rodgers proved to be a handful at times, while seniors Alyssa Hocker and Nat Saxton were a force at the net.
“York Suburban is a great team,” she said. “A fantastic team actually. They have a lot of athletic girls that can really dominate the floor.”
"Stepping stone:" For Ramp, whose squad suffered through very little growing pains a season ago, Tuesday’s result demonstrated to him and the club the effort and focus it will take for the team to try to defend its state title this year. While it was by no means perfect, the Bulldogs earned a hard-fought victory against a Suburban team that many believe could end up in the District 3 and PIAA title discussions when the playoffs begin.
“This is just a stepping stone for us,” Ramp said. “But this is definitely the type of play and execution that I expect from the team night-in and night-out. No more lulls and excuses.”
Freshman shines: That includes WY’s freshman setter, M.J. Rupp, who dished out 48 assists in the triumph.
“M.J. is doing a good job,” Ramp said. “Now, yes, she does make some freshman errors here and there, but she’s getting comfortable running the offense and she understands it. She’s going to be a phenomenal athlete and playing in an environment like this is tough, but overall I’m very pleased with her and I only expect her to grow from here on out.”
Statistics: Thomas led the Bulldogs with 20 kills while Alayna Harris added 11 and Kahley chipped in nine.
Suburban was paced by Caitlin Springer (15 digs, 34 assists), Rodgers (12 kills, 15 digs), Lauren Guyer (14 digs) and Maia Carney (16 digs).
OTHER GIRLS' VOLLEYBALL
Susquehannock 3, Eastern York 1: At Wrightsville, the Warriors won the road match, 25-16, 25-18, 20-25, 25-17. Emma Sieling led the Warriors with eight kills, six aces and nine blocks. Also for the Warriors, Savannah Lesley had 11 kills, Emily Wright had four kills and Olivia Deffendall had three aces. For the Golden Knights, Sarah Moore had 12 kills and 24 digs, while A.J. Waltemyer had seven kills and 10 digs and Abby Smith had six kills and eight digs.
Northeastern 3, Dover 0: At Manchester, the Bobcats won, 25-15, 25-21, 25-18. Meghan Heffner led the Bobcats individually with eight kills. Also for Northeastern, Jade Shellenberger had 26 assists and three kills, Ashley Klinger and Ronni Wolfgang each had five kills and Alexandria Bartram had four aces.
Central York 3, Red Lion 0: At Central, the Panthers improved to 7-1 overall and 6-1 in York-Adams Division I with a 25-19, 25-17, 25-20 win. Jenna Arganbright led the Panthers with 12 kills and six digs. Also for Central, Aubrey Rentzel had five kills, 11 assists and five digs, Sydnie Johnson had eight kills and Abbey Stiffler had 19 assists and seven digs.
Delone Catholic 3, York Tech 0: At Spry, the Squirettes won 25-8, 25-14, and 25-16. Holly Neiderer led the visitors with six aces, five kills and three digs. Also for Delone, Olivia Snyder had 25 assists, four digs and three aces, while Kassidy McDannell had 13 digs and five aces. Delone is now 7-2 overall and 5-1 in York-Adams Division III.
New Oxford 3, Kennard-Dale 1: At New Oxford, the Colonials won the match, 25-19, 21-25, 25-14, 25-11. Morgan Adams led the Colonials with 16 kills and four blocks. Also for the Colonials, Devyn Kelley had nine kills, five digs and three aces, while teammate Mallory Topper had 12 digs and four aces.
Dallastown 3, Spring Grove 0: At Spring Grove, the Wildcats improved to 9-2 overall with a 25-19, 25-19, 25-21 triumph. The Wildcats are 5-1 in York-Adams Division I. The Wildcats were led by Izzy Ream (29 assists), Syd Ohl (11 kills, 18 digs) and Abby Herbert (24 digs). Spring Grove's leaders were Maddie Ruhland (10 digs, 27 assists), Kaylyn Zeigler (11 kills, seven digs) and Nevaeh Wolfe (16 digs).
York Cathoic 3, Milton Hershey 0: The Irish rolled to the nonleague triumph, 25-14, 25-18, 25-16 to improve to 9-0 overall. YC was led by Shannon Toomey (eight kills), Natalie McGarvey (11 digs) and Madeline Walker (14 digs, 21 assists).
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.