The Hempfield Black Knights may be the last team standing, but they weren’t the only ones still on their feet.
So, too, were the many students and families packed into the bleachers of Conestoga Valley’s Rill Gymnasium, Knights and Elizabethtown Bears fans alike, applauding and appreciative of the all-out spectacle that was the Lancaster-Lebanon League girls volleyball finals.
For when the dust had settled Wednesday night, Hempfield had survived five grueling sets vs. Elizabethtown, pulling away with a dominant fifth set and winning the match 3-2 (25-15, 25-14, 14-25, 23-25, 15-8).
The league title is Hempfield’s fifth straight, 18th in the last 20 seasons and 20th overall.
“It’s incredible,” said Knights’ senior Joslene Morgan, who contributed a team-high 14 kills. “Hempfield has a history of winning leagues and districts and so on, and I’m so glad that I’ve been able to continue that tradition for my team and teams beyond me.”
The Black Knights (16-0) built an 11-3 lead in the pivotal game five, getting three kills from Morgan, a kill and block from Addison Leber and an ace from Nyah Smiley during the run.
Match point featured a diving dig and pass from libero Allison Cummings (20 digs) to setter Melody Butzer (40 assists), who volleyed to junior Sarah Hess (seven kills, seven blocks) for the game-ending kill.
“I’m just glad to be part of such an amazing program,” began Cummings, a four-year starter. “Winning leagues all four years, with an amazing team and an amazing coach.”
Credit Elizabethtown (17-1), champions of Section Two, for pushing the match to five sets. After Hempfield dominated the opening two games, the Bears started using a variety of short serves to keep the Knights off balance.
“We served a little better, we served tougher,” Elizabethtown coach Karen Eberly said. “That was a big thing, once we got the momentum on our side.”
For Elizabethtown, Liz Kerin had a match-high 18 kills to go along with four blocks. Seniors Angela Costa-Ouimet had 24 assists and four aces, Kallee Locker had 12 kills, and Sydney Stewart had eight kills and 18 digs.
The Bears, who were seeking their first league tournament title after being swept by Hempfield in the 2014 and 2019 finals, had won three sets vs. the Black Knights this season, all coming in a pair of Saturday tournaments.
“Going into practice yesterday that was all we thought about,” admitted Knights’ senior Camille De La Torre, who contributed 11 kills and an ace.
“I was looking forward to this (match) because I knew how talented E-town was and I wanted to have a hard, drawn out fight for later stages,” Hempfield coach Andrew Olree said. “It was perfect. I knew these girls had the heart to do it, that’s Hempfield, that’s what we do, we grind out games and that’s exactly what they did.”
NOTES: Hempfield is the third-ranked Class 4A team in the state in the latest poll by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association. Elizabethtown is ranked sixth. … Both teams begin play in the District Three Class 4A tournament Thursday at 7 p.m., with No. 2 Hempfield hosting Chambersburg and No. 3 Elizabethtown hosting Mechanicsburg.