It was an "I told you so" moment for York Catholic girls' volleyball coach Phillip Autrey on Tuesday evening during his team's District 3 Class 2A opening-round match with Hanover.
"I actually had them watch the first two games of our last meeting (with Hanover) because they were closer than I thought the girls thought they were," said Autrey, whose squad had swept both YAIAA Division III matches with Hanover this fall. "They were all battles just like (Tuesday). We knew that would be the case coming in. We knew we might have to play four. We did not want to play five. Hanover is a very solid team."
York Catholic grabbed the opening game by four points against Hanover at Central York High School, but the Hawkettes rallied back to win the second game by six points and tying the match.
That served as the wake-up call the Fighting Irish needed, as they won 10 of the first 12 points in the third game and went on to a 3-1 win over Hanover (25-21, 19-25, 25-20, 25-17).
"We told them this is what we expected, so now they needed to regroup," Autrey said. "Don't get flustered, just regroup."
Third-seeded York Catholic (14-4) advances to meet No. 2-seed Trinity (15-5) in the Class 2A semifinals on Thursday at a site and time to be determined. Autrey was a volunteer assistant at Trinity for two years before coming to York Catholic. The Fighting Irish won the Class 1A title last season before the new classifications.
"Those (Trinity) seniors were freshmen when I was there," Autrey said. "I know them pretty well. We played them earlier this year and lost by seven points combined over three games. I think the first two sets went into extra points and then we lost by three in the final game. We have similar styles, so it is going to be a battle, just like this one was. Maybe even harder."
York Catholic led by as much as 11 in the third game before Hanover (10-8) scrapped back to pull within three points at 23-20 behind a run of seven straight service points by senior McKenzie Cleary. The Fighting Irish then broke the string of points and closed out the game.
"We came back from a huge deficit in that third set," said third-year Hanover coach Liz Giffin. "I was a little shocked. It was great to see the girls fight back. I thought overall, we played a great game."
The Fighting Irish snapped a 4-4 tie in the deciding game with a 9-1 run that was sparked in part by eight consecutive service points from sophomore Bella Kepner.
"Neither team really has a big banger that is going to take over a game," Autrey said. "So you're always going to be close."
York Catholic got a team-high six kills each from Kepner and Abby Pilke. Eliza Johnson contributed three blocks while McKenna Walker tallied 29 aces and Emily Hoffman chipped in with a team-high 17 assists.
"Everybody contributed," Autrey said. "We don't really have one great anything. It takes everybody chipping in everywhere. In practice, we try to make sure everybody's skills are good everywhere. I think that has actually helped us this season."
Hanover was topped by a game-high 16 kills from senior Alexa Merrel and 11 kills from senior Maria Drawbaugh. Senior Kelsey Staub accounted for five aces.
"I have six seniors on this team who have been with me since I started," Giffin said. "It's pretty emotional. They've helped us grow. We've made districts every year (Giffen has been at Hanover) and they have been a big part of that."