Spring Grove girls' volleyball team storms back from 2-0 hole to win state semifinal

RYAN VANDERSLOOT
717-505-5403/@ydsports
The Spring Grove girls' volleyball team is seen here celebrating after their District 3 Class 3-A championship win over York Suburban on Nov. 6. The Rockets were celebrating again on Tuesday after their 3-2 state semifinal victory over Bethlehem Catholic.
  • The Spring Grove girls' volleyball team earned a 3-2 win on Tuesday in a PIAA Class 3-A semifinal.
  • The Rockets rallied from 2-0 hole to down defending state 3-A champion Bethlehem Catholic.
  • Spring Grove will play Hampton in the state 3-A final at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Cumberland Valley.

EXETER TOWNSHIP — One characteristic that has separated the Spring Grove girls’ volleyball team from nearly every one of their foes this season is resiliency.

Tested in the York-Adams Division I regular season by rival Central York, the Rockets rallied back to down the Panthers in a match that went five sets.

After falling for the first and only time this season to York Suburban in the Y-A playoff final, the Rockets responded by defeating the Trojans in the District 3 Class 3-A final the next week.

None of those situations, however, were as dire as the one the Papertown girls faced Tuesday evening in the PIAA 3-A semifinals against defending state champion Bethlehem Catholic.

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Down 2-0 in the best-of-five match, the Rockets were on the cusp of seeing a successful season upended.

Were the Rockets worried?

Nah.

Using the momentum gained late in Set 2, the Spring Grove girls flipped the script against the Golden Hawks at Exeter Township High School.

Strong showings in Set 3 and Set 4 evened up the contest to force a pivotal, winner-take-all Set 5.

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The Rockets didn’t let up one bit in Set 5, grabbing an early lead before claiming an epic come-from-behind victory with a 15-12 triumph in Set 5 to earn a thrilling 3-2 victory.

The game scores were 20-25, 23-25, 25-20, 25-13, 15-12.

Tuesday’s triumph earned Spring Grove a berth in Saturday’s state final at Cumberland Valley High School at 3:30 p.m. against District 7 runner-up Hampton, which downed District 7 champion Freeport, 3-1, in the other semifinal.

Spring Grove's Maddie Ruhland, seen here in a file photo, had 58 assists on Tuesday in a 3-2 win over Bethlehem Catholic.

“It’s crazy,” Spring Grove setter Maddie Ruhland said after the match.

Indeed it was.

Resilient, not scared: After the first two sets, it looked like the Hawks were going to steamroll the No. 1 team in the latest 3-A state rankings from the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association.

Ruhland, however, said neither her not her were scared.

They were resilient.

“I never like losing a set, but it’s nice to be the underdogs,” she said. “That’s something that I like. So I was comfortable and never really got scared that we were going to lose.”

Spring Grove girls' volleyball coach Liz Zeigler.

Coach Liz Zeigler backed up that assessment.

“That is them,” said Zeigler, who won a PIAA title back in 1999 as an assistant coach with Susquehannock. “This whole season they have never given up. You can’t really ever count them out.”

Turning the tide: Better serving and defense helped turn the tide.

The Golden Hawks' attack was pushed off the net after Set 2 and Bethlehem Catholic was forced to take the vast majority of its swings from five feet out or longer. Hits that were regularly finding the floor earlier in the match were being blocked at the net, dug out by the defense or sailing out of bounds.

“I felt that we just adjusted to how hard they were serving and were able to just change our mindset on how we were attacking,” Zeigler said.

Ruhland noted that serves were being pinpointed at the weaker serve-receive defenders for Bethlehem Catholic (17-6), which came into the match ranked No. 2 in 3-A by the PVCA.

“We tried to pick on some of their girls that were struggling,” said Ruhland, who dished out 58 assists in the victory. “We could tell because of their facial expressions and stuff.”

Spring Grove's Hailey Wolfe, seen here at right in a file photo, had 27 kills on Tuesday against Bethlehem Catholic.

Wolfe twins excel again: Much like it has gone all season long, the Wolfe twins were forces to be reckoned with for the Rockets.

Hailey Wolfe, who recently went over 1,000 kills for her career, led the team with 27 kills, while sister Nevaeh tallied 23.

The victory was a little extra special for Nevaeh, who tallied her 1,000th career dig in the triumph.

Spring Grove's Nevaeh Wolfe, seen here in a file photo, had 23 kills on Tuesday vs. Bethlehem Catholic.

Looking to the state final: Now the Rockets (27-1) have only the state final ahead of them during a season that has come full circle. 

Spring Grove started the season with a triumph at the Cumberland Valley tournament, won the District 3 title there two weeks ago and will now be playing for a state gold medal at CV against a Hampton club (20-3) ranked No. 4 in 3-A by the PVCA.

“It’s always the best way to go out of the season with a win,” Ruhland said. “We can’t win anything more than states so we’re going to be going for it.”

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