York Catholic sees standout girls' volleyball season end with loss in District 3 2-A final

York Catholic's Hope Leavy-Gaskins, right, seen here in a file photo, had 11 kills and 21 digs on Tuesday night against Trinity.
  • York Catholic fell to Trinity on Tuesday in the District 3 Class 2-A girls' volleyball final.
  • The Shamrocks won the match 3-0, on set scores of 25-17, 25-13, 25-19.
  • Both teams entered the match at 13-0 and ranked among the top three teams in the state 1-A rankings.

SHIREMANSTOWN — The prospects of a 2020 fall sports season looked grim in early August.

Things appeared to take a pessimistic turn after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf issued a recommendation that there be no high school athletic events until Jan. 1, 2021.

York Catholic girls’ volleyball coach Phil Autrey saw the writing on the wall. Fearing that his six seniors would see their final YC season postponed, or possibly canceled, Autrey wanted to tell the girls in person to expect the worst.

Fortunately for the Irish, the season that seemed in serious jeopardy somehow stayed alive. The PIAA and the York-Adams League went against Wolf's guidance and opted to allow a delayed and shortened season, but a season nonetheless.

The Irish girls rolled through a truncated schedule with an unbeaten record, a York-Adams Division III title and a berth in the District 3 Class 2-A playoffs.

York Catholic's storybook journey, however, had to end sometime. That time turned out to be Tuesday evening in the District 3 2-A final against No. 1 seed Trinity.

Taking on a foe that was ready for the challenge, the Irish did their best to upset the defending district champs. Without the services of four players because of COVID-19 issues, Autrey and his team saw their terrific season end with a 25-17, 25-13, 25-19 setback.

No. 2 seed York Catholic finished 13-1.

“This group wants to win,” Autrey said. “But that’s not why they played.”

Autrey recalls the day in August when he talked to his team during camp. He informed the squad that he didn’t think a season would get started, let alone completed.

It was hard thing for the emotional Autrey to do given the circumstances. He probably expected a response that would include many tears from his players, but was instead met with something entirely different.

“The girls were a little stunned,” Autrey said. “But one of the seniors — Shannon Toomey — asked ‘can we still practice?’ And, as a coach, when a senior is like ‘can we just practice’ and she didn’t care if we didn’t have games ... that’s why I do this. So whatever we get, we were going to be thankful for.”

Autrey clearly had a lot to be thankful for in a season full of historical highlights. The Irish, who have perennially played in the shadow of Y-A D-III rival Delone Catholic for more than a decade, were able to sweep three contests against the Squirettes this season, including one Saturday in the district semifinals.

Autrey also had a deep team, highlighted by those six seniors who have been through thick and thin with their coach over the past four seasons.

That group was certainly special for him. A few years ago when another senior-laden team lost in the district final to Delone, Autrey couldn’t hold back tears. Tuesday, however, after a disappointing outcome against the Shamrocks, a dry-eyed Autrey was only filled with pride and respect.

“They play because they love to play with each other,” he said. “And it’s hard to characterize something like that. Did I grow (as a coach)? Yes, because they were the ones that taught me.”

The match: The Irish fell behind early in both Set 1 and Set 2 against Trinity. After rallying back to even the score at 14-all in Set 1, the Shamrocks took 11 of the final 14 points to go up 1-0 in the match.

York Catholic was unable to rally back in Set 2. The Trinity girls raced out to a 15-6 lead and cruised from there.

The Irish were able to keep things closer in Set 3, but the home team used a five-point run midway through the set to gain the upper hand.

Hope Leavy-Gaskins, a Shippensburg University recruit, led the Irish with 11 kills. Madeline Walker, who is Autrey’s niece, tallied 23 digs, while Leavy-Gaskins recorded 21 digs and Mia Citrone finished with 19 digs.

Trinity improved to 14-0. Both teams teams entered the match ranked among the top three teams in the state in 2-A by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association. Trinity was No. 2 and York Catholic was No. 3.

Trinity advances to the state quarterfinals on Saturday.

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com.