Spring Grove’s Sarah Smith, second from left, reacts during Thursday’s match. She was injured during homecoming last week.
Spring Grove's Sarah Smith, second from left, reacts during Thursday's match. She was injured during homecoming last week. (The Evening Sun -- Clare Becker)

Spring Grove High senior Sarah Smith had trouble standing and sitting on her own Thursday night. A brace around her torso forced her to walk gingerly.

Still, after spending three days in an intensive care unit after slipping from a homecoming float last week and being run over by two tires of a landscaping trailer, there was no place she would've rather been than with her volleyball teammates.

They rewarded her with a 23-25, 25-22, 27-29, 25-15, 15-13 home win on senior night against Central York to claim the YAIAA Division I title.

"It was rough not being here," Smith said of not playing. "I wanted to get out and play volleyball. I'm glad to be OK. It could've been worse."

How much worse, however, would be difficult to imagine. Smith received a liver laceration, a deflated lung that is regaining shape through breathing exercises and a broken vertebra in her back.

Still, she was part of her teammate's huddles during timeouts, was coaching when she could and was giving encouraging words during timeouts.

After the lengthy five-game match, Smith is just glad the Rockets (14-1, 11-1 YAIAA I) won.

"I would've been in pain the rest of the night (if we hadn't won)," she said.

Central York (9-3, 9-3) appeared in a good position from the start to beat the Rockets. The Panthers jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first game before Spring Grove tied it at 14.

They allowed the Rockets to stay in the first game by committing eight unforced errors, but still earned a 25-23 win to take a 1-0 lead in games.

"Extremely disappointing," Spring Grove coach Dawn Myers said. "Extremely frustrating. When you have senior night and you got a crowd like this and it's your home gym and you're going after the division title, we should be excited. We did not start well at all."

The Rockets started the second game poorly, trailing 19-12 at one point, but scored 13 of the next 16 points to win 25-22 and even the match at one game apiece.

The third game was the opposite. Spring Grove jumped to an early lead, but the Panthers tied the score at 20, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27 before pushing ahead for a 29-27 win to gain a 2-1 lead in games.

As tight as the first three games were, however, Spring Grove dominated the fourth. It rocketed to an 11-4 lead, extended that to 22-9 and finished the Panthers 25-15 to even the games at two.

Central York coach Nate O'Casio was at a loss to explain what happened.

"I'll have to watch the film," he said. "I'll have to let you know. Probably just a mental breakdown, just being young, just learning the process. But it was good to see them bounce back in the fifth game."

Spring Grove appeared it would steal the fifth game after jumping to a 4-0 lead, but the Panthers tied it at 6, 7, 8 and 11.

Spring Grove’s Brandi Kinard (21) encourages teammate Adrienne Marcionette as she lunges for the ball during Thursday’s match at Spring
Spring Grove's Brandi Kinard (21) encourages teammate Adrienne Marcionette as she lunges for the ball during Thursday's match at Spring Grove. (The Evening Sun -- Clare Becker)
The Rockets finished the match, however, with consecutive points to take the game 15-13 and win the match.

"We weren't playing our best ball," Myers said. "The girls got a little quieter and, when they get quiet, the feet don't move. It wasn't our best match, but they found a way to come through and win."

She credited Smith with a part of that.

"Losing Sarah was a big deal," Myers said. "She has just got energy and is vocal on the court, which is what we were missing tonight. Having Sarah here was a blessing, just an absolute blessing. It's been a challenging week."

Smith received an ovation from the crowd when she was announced before the match for senior day introductions.

Despite his team's loss, O'Casio was happy with his team's season. The Panthers were 4-8 in the division last season, but improved five games this year.

"They put in the time," he said. "It's because of them we're in this position. We're in a place right now we want to be. We're peaking at the right time."

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