Video: York Catholic claims District 3 gold

If someone said two or three months ago that York Catholic volleyball would be district champions by season's end, many would not have believed them -- even some on the Irish sideline.

But there they were Saturday afternoon at Dallastown High School, with senior Brooke Ricks holding back tears as she hoisted the team's first district title since 2007 high above her head as the York Catholic faithful responded with a standing ovation.

"If you would've asked me at the beginning of the season if we'd be here right now, I would've said yes but I wouldn't have believed it fully," RIcks said. "But after these past few weeks, I knew we were going to win. I just felt it deep down."

Slideshow: York Catholic 3, Lititz Christian 0

On the scoreboard, it looked like an easy 3-0 win (25-23, 25-16, 26-24), but it wasn't that simple. The Irish had to rally from behind in the first and third games. It took a while to work out the jitters in the first, so head coach Phillip Autrey called a timeout with his team trailing 12-8 to try and settle things down.

"We knew we would have runs and scores against us, we knew that all year," Autrey said of his message to the Irish. "So that was what we expected. They're a really solid team. We just needed to stay the course."

Out of the timeout, Autrey's underclassmen began to take over. Sophomore Emily Hoffman racked up three kills, junior Eliza Johnson added two of her own and an ace from freshman McKenna Walker tied the game at 14. The ninth tie of the game left the score knotted at 22, but the Irish kept pushing and Walker sealed a 25-23 win with a game-winning tip.

"We could not have done this without them," Ricks said of the younger players. "They're the ones pushing us to work harder and without them, we wouldn't have worked this hard to get here."

"Those freshmen and sophomores don't play like they're underclassmen," Autrey added. "If you're on the court, you're a volleyball player, that's it."

Momentum from the first win carried York Catholic through the second game, which turned into the Rachel Shelley show for York Catholic. The junior reeled off four straight kills at one point, leading the Irish on a 10-1 run.

"That was definitely one of her better games," Autrey said of Shelley. "We really liked the matchup with her. When she gets going, she's deceptively a quick jumper. She has a slow approach, then she takes off at the last minute and it catches the defense off guard."

The Eagles finished strong but never threatened and York Catholic cruised, 25-16.

With their backs against the wall, Lititz Christian responded in the third game and jumped out to an eight-point lead, 17-9. But that's when York Catholic made its move. The Irish rallied with two Johnson kills and a Shelley ace, cutting the deficit to one, 22-21. A Walker ace tied it at 22 and forced Lititz Christian to call timeout. Moments later, another Johnson kill and an error on the Eagles sealed a 26-24 win, sending the Irish faithful into a frenzy.

"We were prepared to go five games today and we said that from the beginning," Autrey said. "I thought we had a chance to chip away at the lead there but I was still expecting to go five. But they did what they needed to do to finish it. It was a nice celebration. This is our first big title in a while so I'm so happy for the girls."

Past winners

A look back at recent District 3 Class A volleyball champions:

2013: Dayspring Academy

2012: Halifax

2011: Halifax

2010: Holy Name

2009: Holy Name

2008: Holy Name

2007: Central Catholic

2006: Central Catholic

2005: Central Catholic

2004: Central Catholic

2003: Central Catholic

2002: Central Catholic

2001: Lebanon Catholic

Up next

York Catholic will face Blue Ridge on Tuesday in the opening round of the PIAA Class A girls' volleyball championship. Time and place for the contest is to be determined. The PIAA Class A girls' volleyball championship bracket consists of 16 teams total.

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