When the Yorktowne and Ballyhoo girls’ volleyball clubs merged two years ago, the plan was to build a Ballyhoo superteam to showcase the talent in the area on a nationwide basis, instead of having the programs compete against each other for the best local players.
That decision proved to be a good choice this season when 20 of the program’s 22 senior athletes, including 15 from York-Adams League schools, earned spots on NCAA rosters next season.
The large number of players going to play at the next level is up from 13 a season ago. While the York-based Ballyhoo Sports Academy program has shown the ability to put players into the NCAA previously, the coaches and the director of the club agreed that this senior class had something special.
“This group of girls are so passionate and work so hard,” Red Lion girls’ volleyball and Ballyhoo coach Kelsey Fuller said. “It’s also a reflection of how far the club has come because it seems each year the club seems to go another level up. It seems to keep elevating and the girls continue to help elevate it.”
Star-studded roster: It’s not a surprise that the success of Y-A League girls’ teams have led to stellar performances at the club level as well. Ballyhoo’s two teams of seniors included a pair of the elite local high school players from last season.
Y-A Division I Player of the Year Ali St. Rose from South Western (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) and Y-A D-III Player of the Year Maddie Clabaugh from Delone Catholic (Shippensburg University) are coming off dominant high school seasons.
In addition to St. Rose and Clabaugh, 13 more members of the Ballyhoo club and Y-A League will play in college: Peytan Guillickson, Slippery Rock University (Littlestown); Skye Wolfe, East Stroudsburg University (Spring Grove); Natalie Saxton, Eastern University (York Suburban); Abby Herbert, Eastern University (Dallastown); Eve Brink, Pitt Bradford University (Central York); Kaylyn Zeigler, Eastern University (Spring Grove); Jenna Arganbright, Kutztown University (Central York); Katie Thompson, Millersville University (Red Lion); Georgianna Kahley, Elizabethtown College (West York); Aubrey Rentzel, Stockton University (Central York); Sydnie Johnson, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (Central York); Kambrie Hepler, Elizabethtown College (West York); and Alexa Shorts, Bloomsburg University (Central York).
Among those 13 athletes, seven were Y-A first team all-stars (Arganbright, Johnson, Herbert, Shorts, Hepler, Saxton, Gullickson), four were second-team all-stars (Rentzel, Brink, Kahley, Zeigler) and one was an honorable mention selection (Wolfe).
Five players from surrounding schools also earned college spots from the club: Maddie Gibbel, Messiah College (Dayspring Christian Academy, Lancaster); Katie Bushong, Wilmington University (Manheim Township); Kjersti Strong, Snow College (Cumberland Valley); Chelsea O’Leary, Gettysburg College (Cumberland Valley); and Taylor McInerney, Austin Peay State University (Palmyra Area).
The coaches said the two members of the club not planning to play NCAA volleyball — Grace Rishel (Central York) and Morgan Runk (Cumberland Valley) — had the chance to play in college, but chose to attend Penn State University and the University of Pittsburgh, respectively, where they plan to join the club teams.
A team effort: Joe Ramp, former West York girls’ volleyball coach and a current Ballyhoo coach, is excited to use some of his new-found free time this fall to see his former players in action.
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He gave the players all the credit for gaining the attention of their future coaches because of the passion and selflessness they showed on the court.
“Their talent was showcased just because they were simply a team,” Ramp said. “There weren’t any individuals whatsoever on the team. They just wanted to go out and compete and win. They made a lot of noise when playing other big-time teams and clubs from around the country, so a lot of college coaches were surrounding our courts simply because of the energy, the noise and the relentlessness they had throughout the year.”
A bright future: As they send off a successful senior class to play at the next level, Ballyhoo girls’ volleyball director and Delone Catholic coach Jason Leppo is hopeful that the program can sustain the solid results of the past few seasons.
He has fond memories of seeing some of these girls as eighth graders, when they were dreaming of a chance to live out their current reality. Now he wants to enjoy that same feeling again with a new group years from now.
“To see them talk about how awesome it would be to play in college someday, (and) to (now) actually have the opportunity to do it; and knowing we played a small part in helping to guide them in the right direction to be successful is something that is really, really special and is something that I truly cherish,” Leppo said.
Reach Rob Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org.