According to the state's coaches, the York Catholic and Delone Catholic girls' volleyball teams are considered to be two of the top-four Class 2-A programs in Pennsylvania.
Despite that fact, one of those teams will see its season end on Thursday night without even reaching the PIAA state playoffs.
That's because the Lady Irish and the Squirettes will face off at 6 p.m. Thursday at Red Lion High School in a District 3 2-A semifinal battle. The winner will advance to the district title match. The loser will go home and put the uniforms away for the season.
District 3, despite featuring three teams ranked among the top 10 in the state in 2-A, gets just one berth into the state field. That means only the District 3 2-A champion will move on to the state playoffs.
That makes Thursday's showdown a critical win-or-go-home affair.
The two parochial rivals are very familiar with each other. York Catholic beat Delone early in the season at home, while the Squirettes returned the favor with a win in McSherrystown later in the season.
As a result, the two teams split the York-Adams League Division III championship.
York Catholic (17-1) enters the match as the No. 2 seed in the district 2-A field, while Delone (17-2) is the third seed.
In the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association 2-A state poll, York Catholic is ranked No. 3, and Delone is No. 4.
The Irish punched their ticket to the district semifinals with a 25-11, 25-17, 25-19 triumph at home over Lancaster Mennonite on Tuesday. Seventh-seeded Lancaster Mennonite finished at 6-10. York Catholic's stat leaders were Julia Yanick (11 digs), Madeline Walker (21 assists, eight aces) and Hope Leavy-Gaskins (12 kills, seven assists, four aces).
In the first game at York Catholic on Tuesday, Delone beat rival Hanover for the third time this season, earning a 25-18, 25-16, 25-15 victory. Sixth-seeded Hanover finished at 11-10. Delone's stat leaders were Maddie Clabaugh (18 kills, 11 digs), Deanna Klunk (12 assists), Katie Kohler (18 assists) and Emma Schneider (25 digs). Delone standout Brooke Lawyer played a very limited role in Tuesday's game because of a neck issue. She is expected to play in Thursday's match.
Waiting for the York Catholic-Delone winner in Saturday's title match will be the winner of Thursday's other 2-A semifinal between top-seeded Trinity (18-1) and fourth-seeded Middletown (14-4). That match will follow the York Catholic-Delone match at Red Lion.
Trinity advanced to the semifinals with a 25-13, 25-8, 25-12 triumph over Bermudian Springs at Shiremanstown on Tuesday. Eighth-seeded Bermudian finished at 8-9. Trinity is ranked No. 8 in the state in 2-A by the PVCA.
Delone beat Trinity during the regular season, 3-2.
Central York, West York also move to semifinals: Two other Y-A teams also advanced to the district semifinals on Tuesday.
Central York swept Waynesboro in 4-A, 25-23, 25-21, 25-10, while West York rolled past Fleetwood in 3-A, 25-21, 25-17, 25-19.
At Central, the top-seeded Panthers dominated eighth-seeded Waynesboro. Central improved to 14-1. Waynesboro finished at 14-6. Central will face fifth-seeded Central Dauphin (14-3) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Dallastown in the semifinals. Tuesday's win clinched a state berth for Central.
Central Dauphin swept fourth-seeded South Western (15-3) on Tuesday. In Saturday's championship match, the Central York-Central Dauphin winner will face the winner of Thursday's other semifinal between second-seeded Hempfield (17-0) and sixth-seeded Cumberland Valley (13-3). Hempfield is ranked No. 5 in the state in 4-A by the PVCA.
At West York, the second-seeded Bulldogs improved to 20-1. Seventh-seeded Fleetwood finished at 13-6. West York, the defending PIAA 3-A state champion, will take on third-seeded Garden Spot (17-2) in Thursday's semifinals at 6 p.m. at Hempfield. Garden Spot earned a 3-0 win over sixth-seeded James Buchanan (17-5) in its quarterfinal match on Tuesday. The winner of Thursday's match will clinch a state berth.
West York is ranked No. 5 in the state in 3-A by the PVCA. Garden Spot is unranked. In Saturday's title match, the West York-Garden Spot winner will meet the winner of Thursday's other semifinal between top-seeded Palmyra (19-0) and fourth-seeded Berks Catholic (14-3). Palmyra is ranked No. 2 in the state in 3-A by the PVCA.
Dallastown falls: The news wasn't quite as good for York-Adams League champion Dallastown on Tuesday. The Wildcats fell to a powerhouse Hempfield outfit, 25-19, 25-23, 25-13. The seventh-seeded Wildcats finished at 14-8.
— Reach Steve Heiser at firstname.lastname@example.org.