Despite an unbeaten run through the regular season, Hempfield girls volleyball coach Andrew Olree said he couldn’t quite gauge just how good his team might be.
That, Olree explained, was because he couldn’t enter the Black Knights in four high-profile tournaments, as he typically does, thanks to pandemic restrictions.
But on Thursday night, he got a better sense of where his team stands: Hempfield dispatched previously unbeaten Garden Spot 3-1 — 25-18, 22-25, 25-15, 25-14 — in the Lancaster-Lebanon League championship match at Warwick.
The Knights entered Thursday’s match as the top-ranked team in the District Three Class 4A power rankings, while the Spartans sit atop the Class 3A rankings.
“They’re a really good team,” Olree said of Garden Spot. “I’m excited we had this kind of match now. Hopefully it helps us down the road.”
For the Knights, who lost all but two starters from last year’s team, which made it all the way to the state semifinals, the win marks their fourth straight league title, 11th in the last 12 years and unprecedented 19th overall.
“These girls have been waiting to prove themselves,” Olree said. “They wanted to put a number on the banner all of their own, so I’m happy they got to do that.”
The Knights took control of the first set by scoring seven of eight points for a 16-9 lead. The Spartans, however, cut the lead to 19-17 before Hempfield rattled off six of the last seven points.
Hempfield grabbed a 12-6 advantage in the second set, but Garden Spot went on a roll, scoring eight of the next nine points to take a 14-13 lead. The lead eventually grew to 20-14 before the Knights made it close, but the Spartans held on for their lone set win of the night.
Garden Spot could not keep the momentum, however, as Hempfield opened a 10-3 lead in the third and was never really threatened, winning 25-15 to take a 2-1 lead.
“I felt like we were chasing the whole time,” Spartans coach Lauren DiPiano said. “Their offense is very good and they have a lot of weapons to go to, so when they’re in system and running what they want to it’s hard for us to figure out defensively who to dig and who to block.”
Leading 14-10 in the fourth, the Knights closed with an 11-4 run to finish the match and the lock up the title.
“I settled them down and told them to play their game,” Olree said. “That’s what they did in the third and fourth sets. We played almost error-free the last two sets.”