After eight hours of volleyball Saturday, Hanover High head coach Reagan Bitler's experiment can be considered a success.

The Hawkettes did lose the championship of the 2011 Snacktown Fall Volleyball Classic 25-14, 25-23 to Eastern York at Hanover, but they did so missing two of their six starters.

Senior Paige Fuhrman is out with an ankle sprain, and classmate Abbey Rhodes was sick. That forced Bitler to rely heavily on freshman Lexi Spangler, who hadn't played this season, and junior varsity call-up Renee Drawbaugh, who also moved from setter to defense.

Spangler finished Saturday with 15 digs, and Drawbaugh collected 26 digs and six aces.

"I've been thinking about that for the last couple of nights, getting the news of the starters being out," Bitler said. "The whole day was an experiment for us. I think we have a strong program here. I think for me to be able to go down to my JV lineup and bring two girls up to fill those spots and getting to where we did today, that gives me a little bit of confidence on what I have for the future."

The Hawkettes played well, not losing a match in three pool play games. They lost the first game of the semifinal against Kennard-Dale 25-21 before rallying for a 25-22 win in the second game.

That forced a winner-take-all third game to be played to 15. Hanover fell to 9-4 before an injury to a Kennard-Dale player paused play.

"Last year, (digging holes) seemed to be our tendency," Bitler said. "We'd dig ourselves in a hole and fight back. I think we play better under pressure than when we have those big leads."

"Being down 9-4, I don't have the tendency to worry. It's when we get late in the game when I worry. We still have some time to play there."

So, Coach, when do you worry when a game is played to 15 points?

Bitler laughs before answering.

"I'm thinking 12, 13 points," he said. "That's late for us."

The Hawkettes finished with a 15-13 win against the Rams before heading to the championship match against Eastern York, which also lost the first game of its semifinal -- that one to Schuylkill Valley -- before winning the final two games to advance.

The Golden Knights jumped to a 12-2 lead in the first game against Hanover.

"That was huge for us," Eastern York coach Jen Reichard said. "We just needed that confidence even though we were in the final. We have a tendency to play down sometimes and think it'll be fine."

Hanover could only draw to within seven, 15-8 and 17-10, during the game before losing 25-14.

"I think that's that they had to lay it on the line to win the semifinal match in three (games)," Bitler said. "They were a little taken back to start the match. The second game was more realistic of those two teams actually battling it out."

And much closer. The score was tied at 15 midway through the match before the Golden Knights scored the next four points.

Hanover drew to within one, 22-21, before Eastern York scored three of the next five points for the 25-23 win in the best-of-three match and earn the tournament championship.

"Unfortunately, with my girls they aren't very ...," Reichard said, pausing with her left hand flat in midair, indicating her team has tendencies to play at a wide range of levels. "There's nothing easy. We can't do anything easy. We dig a hole but come out scrambling and find a way."

A lot of Eastern York's success could be attributed to junior Lexi Rhein, who had 10 assists, three digs, four kills and one ace against Hanover.

"She had a great day," Reichard said. "She's a stud, a good all-around player, serving, defensively, setting, hitting, blocking."

Sam Good led Hanover with eight assists, and Logan Myers had a team-high seven kills. Drawbaugh added five digs.

dpaulling@eveningsun.com; 717-637-3736, extension 139