Members of the South Western girls' volleyball team discuss making the District 3 playoffs and the team's unique celebrations. Matt Allibone


South Western volleyball coach Cathy Harman had a simple message for her players Thursday night.

"This is not our last bus ride."

Taking on rival Spring Grove on the road, the Mustangs needed a win to ensure themselves a spot in the District 3 playoffs. With the Rockets also fighting to make the postseason, Harman wanted her players prepared for a tough match.

Despite dropping the first set, South Western would win three straight to claim the 3-1 victory (21-25, 25-13, 25-10, 25-17). Currently ranked No. 15 in the 16-team bracket in District 3 Class 4A, the Mustangs will be heading to the playoffs for the second straight season.

"The seniors have been talking about 'Oh my gosh, my last game,' with all this emotion," Harman said. "I kept telling them it's not the last, we're going to districts. And everyone's got to keep pushing onto the next one."

Early on, the pressure of having their season end seemed to be getting to South Western. The Mustangs gave up a 8-3 run to Spring Grove to start the game and eventually lost the first set by four points. With the first matchup between the two teams this season having ended with a narrow 3-2 South Western win, it looked like another close battle was about to take place.

But the Mustangs were rarely challenged the rest of the evening. They opened the second set on a 5-0 run and outscored the Rockets by 27 points in two straight wins. While the Rockets showed more fight in the fourth set, the Mustangs still never trailed in a 25-17 clinching win.

What changed?

"They played so tense (in the first set) and I kept telling them to calm down," Harman said. "I said, 'Next game, everybody's going to pass much more, everybody's going to relax. We're not going to jump and spaz.' And they did, they played smarter."

Senior setter Bonna Sheehan finished the game with 28 assists while senior libero Kaitlyn Chell registered 23 digs. Freshman Ali St. Rose led the team with 16 kills and Megan Wolf (10 kills, three aces, 16 digs) and Paige Rager (nine kills, two blocks, three digs) also had big games.

Although the Mustangs (8-8, 6-6) will be one of the lowest seeds in the districts, they believe having played some of the higher-ranked York County teams this season will benefit them. South Western beat sixth seeded Dallastown in four sets on Tuesday.

"We've been playing so well, we're going to let that carry right into districts," Chell said.

Added Sheehan: "Last year we were seeded pretty low and we got through the first round, so based on past experiences and the confidence we have I think we're going to go far."

While the Mustangs celebrated, the Rockets likely saw their season end with the loss. They entered the night ranked 17th in the 16-team bracket in District 3 Class 3A.

"You would think they would be fighting because its senior night, the last game and I had six seniors fighting to get into districts," Spring Grove coach Liz Zeigler said. "We just didn't have that drive after that start."

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