Despite PIAA loss, Irish make their mark
York Catholic volleyball falls in PIAA Class A quarterfinals to undefeated North Star
Less than two weeks ago, it would have been hard to fathom the York Catholic girls' volleyball team standing on the same court with the No. 1-ranked Class A team in the state, during the quarterfinals of the PIAA tournament.
There the Irish were on Saturday afternoon, however, facing undefeated North Star in the state quarters at Chambersburg High School.
North Star won in straight sets — 25-22, 25-15, 25-21 — but a statement had already been made by the girls from York.
"They've changed the culture," York Catholic head coach Phil Autrey said. "They've made volleyball a sport where students want to come out and compete."
Over the last week and a half, York Catholic went on a four-game run, winning the district championship and a state playoff game.
In the process, they captured the hearts of the York Catholic student body and the surrounding community.
Following Saturday's loss, a throng of about 50 York Catholic supporters gave the Irish a standing ovation as the team returned from the locker room and headed to the bus.
"One of the best things about York Catholic is that it's a small school, but a really tight-nit community," Autrey said. "That parents, our (athletic director) and students traveled to our away games means a lot to me and the girls, because it shows that we've earned a spot with the other sports at our school."
Those who travelled saw the last game for the three senior captains — defensive specialist specialist Maddie Kepner, libero Brooke Ricks and outside hitter Elizabeth Gick.
"This is my third year coaching at York Catholic," Autrey said. "(The seniors) were a crucial part of changing the culture."
York Catholic came out strong in every set on Saturday.
The Irish held a 19-14 lead in the first set after a spike by freshman Bella Kepner.
The excitement was short-lived, however, as Jackie Stanko stepped to the service line and fueled an 8-0 North Star run.
"We talked about if we could steal a game early, maybe we would put (North Star) in a position they're not used to," Autrey said. "We just couldn't finish off that first set, and just couldn't score a couple crucial times."
Undaunted by the late-set mishap, York Catholic fired out of the gate strong in the second set.
The Irish led 5-1 on the strength of two spikes by Emily Hoffman and a stuff from Rachel Shelley.
The Irish led 11-9 when Kayla Rice was caught off-balance by a set that was behind her strike zone.
She adjusted and fired a back-foot kill to start another North Star run.
Stanko tied the set at 11 with a block.
Several points later, Courtney Schrock set the ball perfectly into the rising apex of Stanko's jump, and Stanko swung through a powerful spike that gave North Star the lead for good in the set.
Stanko served 13 service wins and recorded five aces in the match.
"(Senior teammate) Kayla Berkebile gave me serve spots throughout the match and I was confident that I was able to hit them," Stanko said.
North Star def. York Catholic
25-22, 25-15, 25-21
North Star stats – Courtney Schrock (2 aces, 1 kill, 10 assists, 15 digs), Olivia Zuchelli (18 assists, 3 digs), Kayla Rice (2 aces, 6 kills, 5 digs), Jackie Stanko (5 aces, 21 kills, 2 blocks, 7 digs), Aubrey Moss (6 kills, 3 digs), Kayla Berkebile (3 aces, 5 kills, 10 digs), Rockel Eutin (5 digs)
York Catholic stats – Brooke Ricks (1 ace, 1 kill, 1 assist, 5 digs), Maddie Kepner (1 ace, 6 digs), Elizabeth Gick (5 kills), Rachel Shelley (3 kills), Izzy Johnson (1 kill), Rosalee Najdek (3 digs), Emily Hoffman (1 ace, 11 kills, 5 digs), Bella Kepner (4 kills), McKenna Walker (1 ace, 1 kill, 24 assists, 6 digs).