YAIAA tournament preview: Delone strives for five
The last time a team other than Delone Catholic won the YAIAA girls' volleyball tournament title, this year's crop of seniors weren't even in high school yet.
That was 2011, when the Squirettes lost in a semifinal and Dover claimed the top prize. Since then, Delone Catholic has been the class of the York-Adams league, winning four straight titles and sweeping its opponent in the finals the past three years.
Next week, the Squirettes will look to make it five in a row. Despite having lost a handful of key players from last year's team, Delone Catholic cruised to its seventh straight Division III title this fall and looks like one of the favorites in the YAIAA tournament again. The tournament will take place at Dallastown High School, with the quarterfinals on Monday and the semifinals and final on Tuesday.
The Squirettes may have history on their side, but they won't have a cakewalk to another championship. The other side of the bracket features the top ranked team in District 3 Class 4A in Red Lion and the No. 2 team in 3A in West York. The Lions and Bulldogs have both looked dominant this season and would relish the chance to capture a league title.
"(Delone coach) Jason (Leppo) does a great job preparing his teams for the postseason every year, but I can't say that Delone is the only team to focus on," Red Lion head coach Heather Schoemaker said. "Going into this year nobody knew what to expect, but the York-Adams league has so many teams that have been so competitive that I think there might be some upsets."
Delone Catholic also has a very strong District 3 Class 4A qualifier on its own side of the bracket in Central York, as well as district playoff teams York Suburban and York Catholic. However things shake out, the two teams that meet in the final will have to go through some tough competition first.
"We may have won a bunch in a row but that doesn't mean a whole lot with this new group we have," Leppo said. "The way the bracket is set up its wide-open. Suburban is deadly this time of year ... and then West York is playing as well as anybody and is probably the favorite in some people’s minds. I don’t see a lot of blowouts happening."
Here's a look at each of the first round matchups.
Central York (11-3) vs. York Catholic (13-4), 6:00 pm Monday: One of the top two teams in Division I, Central York seems to be peaking at the right time after beating Red Lion in four sets on Tuesday. The Panthers have one of the league's top setters in Emma Saxton as well as experienced players like Ashley Gallagher, Kamryn Stambaugh and Natalie Hawksworth. After losing to Delone in a semifinal last year, Central York could wind up playing the Squirettes again this year if both teams win in the quarters. But first the Panthers will have to get past York Catholic, another team that is very familiar with Delone. After winning the District 3 1A title last season, the Irish finished second in Division III this season and finished the regular season strong by sweeping a solid Hanover team on Thursday.
Delone Catholic (15-2) vs. York Suburban (11-5), 7:30 p.m. Monday: A rematch of last year's league title game, this matchup features two teams that have changed a lot since last fall. The Squirettes cruised through Division III once again while relying on some different faces, including setter Chloe Kindig and hitters Claire Kaufmann and Karigen Emig. York Suburban also lost some key players in Jordan Landis and Ciara Buckingham, but the Trojans managed to finish third in Division II behind experienced players like Georgia DuMars and Parker Faircloth-Henise.
Red Lion (15-2) vs. Susquehannock (13-4), 6:00 p.m. Monday: This is the one quarterfinal matchup featuring two teams that have played already this season. Red Lion beat the Warriors, 3-2, on Sept 26. That result should give Susquehannock the confidence it can play with the Lions, and with eight players back from last year's Division II title team the Warriors could be dangerous. Still, it won't be easy to get past Red Lion. Despite the loss to Central, the Lions have been strong all season and feature one of the league's top players in outside hitter Lindsey Blevins.
West York (19-1) vs. Dallastown (14-5), 7:30 p.m. Monday: Overshadowed by division rivals York Suburban and Susquehannock before the season, West York captured the Division II title by utilizing a team-first approach that doesn't put the focus on any one player. Julia Rill, Abbey James, Marisa Krinock and Trilby Kite are just a few players that have played big roles this season. Dallastown, on the other hand, will look to build on its successful season after missing the league tournament last year.