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York Catholic boys' volleyball advances in districts with sweep of Fleetwood

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

It could have been an incredibly hectic Monday for the York Catholic boys’ volleyball team.

With the school’s baccalaureate program scheduled for 6 p.m., the team was forced to move its District 3 Class 2A first-round contest with Fleetwood up to 3:30 p.m. in an attempt to accommodate. Those arrangements, however, would only work best if the Irish boys were able to make quick work of their Berks County opponents.

It certainly appeared like things might go awry, as the visiting Tigers gave York Catholic coach Phil Autrey and his club a fight early on. The teams battled back and forth in Set 1 before the Irish pulled away late. The momentum from that remained high, as the YC boys blasted Fleetwood in Set 2 before cruising to a 25-21, 25-9, 25-14 sweep.

York Catholic's Joe Mountain (27), Jacob Mountain (2), and Dominic Anzalone (22) agaisnt Northeastern during their boys volleyball match in Manchester on Thursday, Apr. 27, 2023.

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York Catholic, the No. 6 seed in the 12-team draw, advanced to the quarterfinals Thursday against No. 3 Manheim Central. The Irish (17-5) are currently ranked No. 7 in the state in Class 2A while the Barons (14-0) are ranked No. 3, according to the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association rankings.

“Set 1 was a really, really good game,” Autrey said. “Both teams played well. There were just no runs. It was like our first set against Central (in the York-Adams League playoffs). It was just, 'Who can pull away at the right time,' and we did. It was really good volleyball.”

Teams that drop the first set in close fashion can often have a fall-off in Set 2, which is certainly what Autrey believes happened to the Tigers.

“We opened up the lead early in Set 2,” Autrey said, “and kind of never looked back.”

York Catholic vs. York Suburban during boys’ volleyball action at York Catholic Middle & High School in York City, Tuesday, April 11, 2023. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The Irish kept their collective foot on the pedal in Set 3 to close out a contest that took only an hour to play, giving the senior players plenty of time to get ready for their graduation festivities.

“Tonight was a really good sign for me, as a coach, to see where we are mentally right now,” Autrey said. “For everything that’s going on with our seniors right now, to play at 3:30 and then have to get to St. Joe’s by 6, it very easily could have been chaos.”

Chaos is a great word to describe the District 3 Class 2A bracket. With five of the top 10 teams in the state — No. 3 Manheim Central, No. 4 Lower Dauphin, No. 5 Exeter Township, No. 7 York Catholic and No. 8 York Suburban — all in the draw, at least two state-ranked squads won’t even qualify for the PIAA tournament.

York Catholic's John Forjan (23), Andrew Schuler (6), and Nick Moir (1) agaisnt Northeastern during their boys volleyball match in Manchester on Thursday, Apr. 27, 2023.

That is something, however, that Autrey has plenty of first-hand experience in dealing with as the former coach for the YC girls’ team. The Irish girls, who won their first District 3 2A title under Autrey this fall, were the only team among three state-ranked squads — York Catholic, Trinity and Delone Catholic — to make it to the state draw, where the Irish advanced all the way before falling in the finals.

“I feel like I set myself up for this,” Autrey said. “I go from girls, where we get one bid, to this, where we get three bids but there are five or six really, really good teams.”

Brady Walker led the Irish with 12 kills and nine digs in the victory, while Luke Forjan was close behind with 11 kills and 10 digs. Setter John Forjan dished out 28 assists to go with three kills and seven digs.