Spring Grove brings home girls' volleyball state title to Papertown

Members of the Spring Grove girls' volleyball team hold up the state Class 3-A championship trophy on Saturday.

MECHANICSBURG — It was the perfect way to end an almost-perfect season.

After the Spring Grove girls’ volleyball team came up with a dig on a kill attempt by Hampton standout Emmy Schrom, the ball found its way to Nevaeh Wolfe.

Sensing a chance to make history, Wolfe took a big swing while approaching the net.

The ball whizzed past a trio of Talbot defenders and found the court just inside the far sideline for a point that will forever go down in program history.

Wolfe’s 22nd kill of the match capped off a thrilling 25-21, 25-20, 22-25, 25-19 Class 5-A victory that earned the Spring Grove program its first-ever PIAA state title.

“I’m so happy,” Nevaeh said while standing next to her twin sister, Hailey, who bested Nevaeh with a match-best 25 kills. “I was crying for a solid 10 minutes. It’s sad that it’s our last year, so it’s bittersweet. I started crying and then everyone else did.”

Those tears of joy were well-earned after the Papertown girls capped off a terrific season on the same court where it began. Taking on a Hampton side that entered last week ranked No. 4 in the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association poll, the top-ranked Rockets were tested time and time again by the Talbots.

Nearly every time Hampton, the District 7 runner-up, gained momentum in the match, the Spring Grove girls found a way to take it back.

A lot of that was a direct result of the relentlessness of the Wolfe sisters, who combined for eye-popping 47 kills in the championship final.

“I can go both left and right,” Spring Grove setter Maddie Ruhland said. “I have them on both sides. They were off-the-wall tonight. Every time I set Hailey it was a kill and Nevaeh was likewise.”

Title didn't come overnight: The genesis of this championship squad wasn’t formed overnight. Ruhland and the Wolfe sisters started playing together back in seventh grade, with the majority of the rest of the team joining them in eighth grade.

That eighth-grade team went undefeated, which led to hopes that success would follow into high school.

There’s no doubt that it did, even if the Rockets (28-1) were unable to finish the season unbeaten. Winning a state title, however, is more than enough to validate the beliefs of the core of this squad before they entered high school.

“We knew that eventually we were going to go far,” Ruhland said of that eighth-grade squad. “So then here we are.”

More than just talent: A big reason the squad was able to achieve its championship was talent. Talent alone, however, isn’t enough. It takes confidence, resiliency and the ability to stay even-keeled through the ups and downs of a grueling season.

Check, check and check.

“We always said that they had plenty of skill,” Rockets coach Liz Zeigler said. “We just had to work on the mindset and they worked really hard with that mindset all year and I’m just super-proud of how well that’s worked out for them.”

Special senior group: While it’s way too early to look ahead to next season, Zeigler knows that replacing her seven seniors will be a monumental challenge.

“They’re a special group,” Zeigler said. “It’s going to be very hard to replace them.”

Ruhland dished out 44 assists on the night to go along with two aces, three kills and seven digs. Hailey Wolfe tallied 17 digs to go with an assist and an ace while Nevaeh registered six digs. McKenzie Boyer and Rylee Zedek tallied four kills each while Mylie Ormond finished with three kills to go with 11 digs.

Match recap: Both teams struggled early on to find consistency with their service games. The sides combined for 30 service errors.

The Rockets were hampered by that particularly early in Set 1. They fell behind 9-5. The play of the Wolfe sisters, however, was enough to turn things around. Hailey’s second kill of the opening set drew the Rockets even at 15-15, while her final two kills closed out a 25-21 victory.

The Wolfes carried Spring Grove out to an early 5-1 lead in Set 2, with each sister smashing a pair of kills each during that run. The Rockets pushed the advantage to as many as six points (12-6) before Hampton rallied late to pull within a point (21-20). After a timeout, Schrom, who finished with 17 kills for Hampton, misfired on back-to-back attempts, before the Wolfes closed it out, with Nevaeh getting the final kill to cap a 25-20 triumph.

The Talbots got off to a quick 4-1 start in Set 3, but the Rockets bounced back to take an 11-9 edge. For the only time all match, Hampton was able to put together a lengthy run. They ran off the next eight points and never looked back.

The teams traded points back and forth early in Set 4 until a kill by Hailey Wolfe sparked a six-point run for the Rockets, who never looked back en route to securing the victory.

Hampton finished 20-4.

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