Hempfield dispatches Palmyra in district quarters, 3-0
The riddle came hard and fast.
And by the time the Palmyra girls volleyball team could solve Hempfield's barrage of rocketed serves, it was too late. For that is the nature of a postseason: facing the toughest tests with so little time. And now the Cougars' first loss will be their last.
Palmyra ended its season with a 3-0 defeat to powerhouse Hempfield in the District Three Class AAA tournament quarterfinals Tuesday at Central York. The Cougars (19-1) rallied late in a 25-20 finale, having at last built some offensive rhythm not found since midway through their opening set. The Black Knights (17-1) were led by a dominant, 17-kill effort from Katrina Shelly, who helped dispatch Palmyra, 25-16 and 25-10, in the opening sets.
Melanie Sheaffer captained the Cougars with nine kills of her own, while Molly Gundermann and Rachel Hutchinson each recorded an ace and seven digs.
"They had tougher serves than we thought. It took us a while to figure out how to pass their serves. We were trying to figure out what combinations worked," Palmyra coach Clark Sheaffer said. "We felt we had a strong team, too, and that we could match up against them. It was tough."
The Cougars' difficulty stemmed not only from the speed and force of Hempfield's serves, but a change-up in strategy. The Black Knights altered their defensive formation for the night, foiling a concept Sheaffer hoped to unveil for the match. While Palmyra stayed within striking distance over the first half of the opening set, Hempfield pulled away behind some top-notch serving of Marissa Wonders (7 digs, 28 assists), normally known as one of the best setters in the district.
"I knew they had some good middles, so we tried to serve really aggressively and keep them out of system," Black Knights coach Andrew Orlee said. "I think we did that pretty well. They set a lot of outside balls and not a lot of middles. That was really our game plan."
Hempfield kept the Cougars off balance all the way through a convincing second-set victory, having initially raced out to an 11-2 lead. Shelly continued to hammer away from her outside hitting position, while Palmyra again struggled to connect on its side of the court until the third set.
"We just could not pass the ball," Cougars senior Josie Stovall said. "And then we got the hang of passing and they just ended up pulling it out. But we were coming back and it just didn't work out."
Despite trailing by as many as nine over Tuesday's final act, Palmyra closed to within 22-19 on a Sheaffer kill. Along with Gundermann, sophomore Kirstin West (17 assists) stepped in to help fuel the Cougars' comeback effort with a handful of stellar digs. And yet it was all for not, as Hempfield regained control from there and finished the night on an unforced error.
"It was a great season for the girls. Everyone said we had a tough draw, but I felt you want to play the big dog," Clark Sheaffer said. "You want to play what you consider the best team in the league and see how you size up. Everyone wants a chance at the title. We had our chance.
"But overall, as far as the season, it was a good season. They played a heck of a game, there was a lot of sacrifice for the girls in the offseason and they just performed and did a real nice job for us. I hope they represented Palmyra well."
Hempfield def. Palmyra, 3-0
25-16, 25-10, 25-20 at Central York
Hempfield stats — Kiils: Katrina Shelly (19). Ace: Sonia Musso (4). Blocks: Mariah Cadzow, Musso (2). Digs: Bri Tanksley, Marissa Wonders (7). Assists: Wonders (28).
Palmyra stats — Kills: Melanie Sheaffer (9). Aces: Molly Gundermann, Kirstin West, Rachel Hutchinson (1). Blocks: None. Digs: Gundermann, Hutchinson (7), Assists: West (17).