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Palmyra bound for district final

The Cougars survived a five-set battle with West York in the semifinals on Thursday and will now play Berks Catholic for the gold on Saturday.

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DALLASTOWN – After reaching its goal of the program’s first PIAA Tournament berth, it was onto the next goal for the Palmyra girls volleyball team – winning its first district championship.

But few things have come easy for the Cougars, who found themselves in a dog fight for the right to move on.

Oh, and also having to overcome yet another long road trip, in what was essentially the opposition’s back yard.

But as they have all season, they fought through it – and now they’re only one win away from achieving their goal.

The Cougars continue their memorable and impressive run, surviving a back-and-forth affair, winning 3-2 (26-24, 23-25, 25-19, 14-25, 15-12) over West York Thursday at Dallastown High School in the District 3 Class 3A Semifinals.

“This is awesome. Its’ phenomenal to have this opportunity. I really think the girls have worked hard. I think we’re at the point where they want it now,” said Palmyra coach Clark Sheaffer. “You can see it in their eyes. They know it’s theirs if they really go after it.”

And in games like this, it’s the seniors who really start to take over on the court.

The Cougars seniors certainly took charge, led by LeeAnn Baker who totaled four aces, five kills, three assists, two digs, and five blocks.

“It’s phenomenal. I’m so happy we’re going to get the chance to win districts, and then have a better chance in states,” Baker said. “We just have to go play well.”

And all the praise went around from the coach, especially towards the seniors.

“Holy cow what a game they had. I think Maggie (Black) played one of the best games I’ve seen her play. I know Melanie (Sheaffer) gave it everything she had, Kailey (Elrod) as well…Memphis (Monroe) and Kirstin (West) played well too,” Sheaffer said. “LeeAnn…with her skill set, she can do so much. When she pushed that ball to the corner, it just showed that awesome ability she has."

After splitting two down-to-the-wire matches, it seemed as the Cougars were taking control after pulling away for six-point third-set win – but things got away from Palmyra after dropping the fourth set by 11, after jumping out to a 6-3 lead.

“When it went to five, I wasn’t sure. We really fell apart a bit there after they beat us pretty good. But we came back. Again, the girls just really wanted it,” Sheaffer said.

And the Cougars really dug down deep in the decider, clawing their way to within one at 6-5 – then followed with a 5-0 run to lead 10-6 before hanging on for the win.

What’s even more impressive about Palmyra’s win is having to overcome a road-game-like atmosphere, having to travel over an hour to Dallastown, where West York only had a 15-minute trip.

“I told the girls West York was going to have a little bit of a home advantage. But I’ve had success at Dallastown, and we were also given a good and fair group of officials,” Sheaffer said. “But this is a good group of girls. There’s not a lot of drama, and good attitudes from the captains down. They’re putting forth the effort they need to be successful and everyone know their roles. It’s awesome.”

Now the Cougars turn their attention to Berks Catholic in Saturday’s district championship game at 7 p.m. at a site to be determined.

“We do have film on them, so we’ll evaluate it tonight and talk about it tomorrow and practice for them. Berks Catholic historically has been incredible. Hopefully we can produce,” Sheaffer said.

But the players know maintaining that focus and good attitude, and emphasizing the fundamentals always comes first.

“We just need to stay positive and never give up on the ball no matter what happens,” Baker said. “We need to also be smart with the ball and keep swinging.”