DALLASTOWN – After suffering a pair of gut-wrenching, five-set losses over the past few weeks, the Central York girls’ volleyball players were looking forward to putting those disappointments behind them when the PIAA Class 4-A playoffs started Tuesday night.
As it turned out, the Panthers not only put losses in the York-Adams League and District 3 finals behind them, they made amends for them.
Trailing Downingtown East 2-1 after the first three sets at Dallastown High School, the CY girls displayed the resiliency that coach Nate Ocasio has been seeking. This time, the Panthers were the team that rallied back from a deficit to claim a thrilling 25-23, 26-28, 24-26, 25-19, 15-7 triumph.
Central (18-3) will next face District 1 champion Parkland (18-5) in the state quarterfinals at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Exeter Township High School in Berks County. In its first-round match Tuesday, Parkland earned a 3-1 win over Central Dauphin, the fourth-place team from District 3.
“We grinded it out,” Ocasio said. “And that’s what we’ve been about all year. It’s our defensive intensity that’s really kind of given teams fits.”
That intensity helped rally the CY girls back from the 2-1 deficit after blowing late leads in both Set 2 and Set 3. Rallying back from that deficit also marked a contrast to the losses to Dallastown in the Y-A final and Hempfield in the D-3 final. The Panthers led 2-1 in each of those matches.
“It was nice to come back together as a team,” senior middle Sydnie Johnson said. “And get it all done.”
Seniors lead way: Johnson, who tallied 11 kills in the victory, is one of seven seniors on the squad. All seven had the goal of getting to this point sometime in their high school careers. The last CY team to win a PIAA match was back in 2015 when all seven current CY seniors were in eighth grade.
“This is exciting,” Johnson said. “And I think that because we’re so close that we can go far.”
If the Panthers can play at a consistently high level Saturday against Parkland, they will certainly be difficult to defeat. With imposing middles such as Johnson and Emily Prowell, outside attackers such as Jenna Arganbright (team-high 16 kills) and Alexa Shorts (11 kills) and a defense paced by libero Eve Brink (34 digs), the CY girls have all of the elements to go far.
The mental aspect of volleyball, however, has been the team's downfall at times in key moments. The Panthers occasionally had trouble finding ways to reverse or regain momentum. Ocasio, however, was very pleased with what he saw Tuesday.
“After winning Set 1 and leading 24-20 in Set 2 and blowing that, and being up 24-21 in Set 3 and blowing that, they could have easily quit,” Ocasio said. “But they didn’t do that, so it showed me a lot of grit and resiliency and heart. These seven seniors … they really want it.”
“We really do want it,” she said. “The sky’s the limit.”
Downingtown East, the third-place team from District 1, finished at 23-4. Central was ranked No. 8 in the state in 4-A in the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association poll. Downingtown East was No. 9. Parkland is unranked.
West York girls ousted: There won't be a second straight PIAA Class 3-A girls' volleyball state championship for West York.
The Bulldogs were ousted from the 2019 state 3-A playoffs on Tuesday evening with a 3-1 loss to District 11 champion Southern Lehigh at Catasaqua High School. The match scores were 28-26, 25-20, 17-25, 25-11.
West York's season ends at 22-2. Southern Lehigh improved to 17-1 and advances to the state quarterfinals.
The Bulldogs, the third-place team from District 3, came into the match ranked No. 10 in the state in 3-A by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association, while Southern Lehigh was ranked No. 3.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.