Team wins opening match of PIAA tourney, now preparing to face Palmyra in Round 2. Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com
High hops, new heights.
That’s the nutshell story of freshman middle hitter Tesia Thomas and, in turn, the West York girls' volleyball team in 2016, which is in the midst of a state tournament run.
First, there’s Thomas, whose impact cannot be overstated.
She’s the daughter of former Penn State football player — and William Penn three-sport standout — Tisen Thomas. Her sister, Trinity, is a gymnast and member of the U.S. National Team.
“It helps a lot," Thomas said about her family's varied athletic interests. "My body is naturally athletic. …That’s where I’ve excelled. I’m always around athletes.”
Thomas, 14, also competes in swimming and track for West York.
“As a freshman and one year of playing volleyball?” West York head coach Joe Ramp asked, rhetorically. “She’s closing in on her 200th kill. … She’s held her own on this level. She’s always respectful, is very coachable and a tremendous athlete.”
Thomas does not possess tremendous size — she said she stands at just over 5 feet 5 inches — although she could continue growing as her high school career progresses.
Regardless, her leaping ability is a sight to behold, and Thomas said she has previously hit 9 feet, 6 inches on her vertical jump.
According to Ramp, the team does leaping exercises during offseason workouts, where players take a standing leap to the top of a stack of small boxes. Ramp said Thomas has topped out at 11 boxes — which reaches about chest-high on the 6-foot-2 head coach.
“Off the charts,” Ramp said of Thomas’ leaping ability. “The hang time she gets — no one can teach that.”
Teammates have taken notice as well, as the Bulldogs enter the second round of the Class 3A state tournament against Palmyra at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hempfield High School. The state quarterfinal matchup is a rematch of a District 3 semifinal the Cougars won, 26-24, 23-25, 25-19, 14-25, 15-12.
“It was crazy having somebody step up to being our middle like that. That’s extremely exciting,” said senior setter Abbey James.
Yes, Thomas is an embodiment of the 2016 Bulldogs, a group that is young and restless.
While she is the precocious middle hitter, two outside hitters — sophomore Julia Rill and junior Kate Tate — are also playmakers. Trilby Kite is a junior libero who also plays a key role for the Bulldogs.
This year, the team has made history. After advancing to the semifinals of the District 3 Class 3A tournament, the Bulldogs beat Gwynedd Mercy in five sets in the opening round of the PIAA tournament (25-23, 27-29, 25-16, 15-25, 15-12).
Ramp and athletic director Frank Hawkins both said it could very well be the first state tournament win in West York girls’ volleyball history.
“All of our hearts just dropped as soon as we got that final point,” Thomas said of the win.
And, with the youthful composition of the Bulldogs roster, they don’t appear done winning.
“The four girls that will be left behind is a very good core,” Ramp said, nodding his head.
If you go
Who: West York vs. Palmyra
What: State volleyball, Class 3A quarterfinal
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Hempfield High School, Landisville
On the line: Winner advances to Tuesday's state semifinal