HUMMELSTOWN – Clark Sheaffer said after Saturday’s District 3 Class 3A volleyball opener against rival Hershey that he hasn’t seen his Palmyra Cougars play their best yet.
But Sheaffer does know his team can rally in the playoffs already.
Kirstin West led a furious rally in the second set, and Palmyra held off a late Hershey charge in the third set to sweep the Trojans 25-16, 25-22 and 25-23 and advance to Tuesday’s quarterfinals at a site and time to be determined against Lower Dauphin. The Falcons swept West Perry 3-0 in other bracket Saturday.
West finished with 21 assists in the sweep and was spectacular during the middle portion of the second set when her team needed the boost.
“We had a couple of nice serve rallies,” Sheaffer said. “It allowed us to crawl back into the game and it was tight the rest of the way.”
The second set featured two ties and two lead changes midway through.
“Kirstin with her serves, Mel (Sheaffer) had a couple of nice serves, too, that brought us back. We were able to pull it out in the end," Shaeffer said. "Hershey is a very good team, a well-coached team; they’re deep. Lot of kids rotating in and I was nervous about tonight. It’s tough to beat a team three times.”
In the third set it was the opposite.
Palmyra blew out to a 14-5 lead and it looked like the Cougars would cruise, but Hershey mounted a 10-point explosion to tie the set at 15-15. The two sides traded points over the next few minutes before Sheaffer called time out with his team up 21-20 to calm things down.
“We made a lot of errors,” Sheaffer said of the third set. “That did not help us in our cause and it took us a while to get back in a groove again, to perform. We were up big, we were doing fine. We start making errors and we get where we don’t need to be. Hershey is an opponent that you don’t want to mess around with. They can take advantage of your weaknesses.”
Thee Trojans tied the third set two more times before Palmyra put them away.
“During that timeout we asked ourselves, ‘How do we want to go out of this match?’” Hershey coach John Zitko said. “Do we want to play at a level we’re going to be proud of? I challenged them to be louder on the court, and up their intensity. That’s what they did, they’re a tough team.”
Now another division rival stands in front of Sheaffer’s squad.
“We haven’t seen us play at the best level we can be,” Sheaffer said. “I think we can do OK. It’s up to them. As you can see, we can fall apart and make a ton of errors. We have to play error-free ball, we have to make the ball better every time or we’re going to be in trouble. I think we can do well. We’ve beaten some decent teams, but it’s on them.”