The reigning District 3 Class 2A girls’ volleyball champs and defending PIAA gold medalists headed into this year’s state championship game on Nov. 20 seeking a back-to-back state title.
And regardless of the outcome, they knew it would be an emotional match, contested against District 7 juggernaut North Catholic.
“Coming into the game, I told some of my teammates, ‘No matter what happens today, there will be tears for so many different reasons,’” said senior Ryanne Whiteman, who plays libero.
Win or lose, it would be the final time this close-knit and storied team would play together. The Shamrocks graduate ten seniors after a year that saw just one defeat in the regular season, and one in which they lost 6-foot-5 senior Lauren Trumpy to a torn ACL but rallied to remain at the top of the rankings.
After a hard-fought game in front of a packed gymnasium of Trinity supporters at Cumberland Valley High School, the Shamrock’s state-title run came to an end, falling to North Catholic 25-20, 25-19 and 25-23.
And while there were tears of sadness when the Shamrocks lined up to receive their silver medals, the emotions seemed more about the end of a special team than about the loss of the game itself.
“I was trying to tell them not to cry, which is impossible because everyone is crying,” head coach John Barrick said of his post-game talk with the players. “We’re losing 10 seniors, we have a sister combo that’s not ever going to play together again. For us, we lost one of the top players in the state in Lauren, but we still managed to get here and we were very close to pulling it off. There’s not a lot of teams that can be that deep, so we’re very fortunate and blessed.”
Barrick gave credit to North Catholic, led on the floor by junior outside hitter Ally Feczko who had 25 kills on the day.
It was a closely-contested match most of the way, with the lead swinging between both teams by one or two points for much of the first two sets.
Trinity jumped out to a three-point lead early in the third – its biggest lead of the game – and led most of the final set until North Catholic tied it at 18. The momentum swing and North Catholic’s solid play was more than the Shamrocks could answer in defending their state title. North Catholic went on to win their second PIAA championship in three years.
“This past week, we sat down and talked a lot about having gas left in the tank,” Whiteman said. “Our practices are insanely intense. Our entire crew is so talented that we are going hard all of the time, and we knew that’s what we would have to do today. Today was an amazing day, and a really fun match. It was the most fun I’ve had this season. We knew it was going to be tough. [North Catholic] played their butts off on the other side of the court, and I give them full credit. They were amazing.”
Whiteman, a senior who will continue her volleyball career at Juniata College next year, offered some bolstering words for her Trinity teammates, too.
“As soon as the ball dropped to the floor for the final point and sadly landed in front of Jesslyn Ross, I immediately went to her and said, ‘You got this next season,’” Whiteman said. “The sophomore class is so talented, the juniors are going to lead the way as captains, and I think they will be here again next year. I want them to know that the seniors are by no means disappointed, because everyone gave all that they had.”
Coach Barrick is hopeful for next season, too, as Trinity returns 14 sophomores and juniors.
“When Lauren went down early in the season, I was able to look at my bench and say, ‘Ok, you’re next. You’re in,’” Barrick said of the depth. “If any positive could come out of it, it’s the player who ended up taking her spot – Melissa Zack – a sophomore. We didn’t have to wait until next year to get her in; here she is playing now. We went the whole way through the state tournament and she played great. I’m so pleased that she can be a firm foundation for us next year.”
“A while ago in our gym, we took one of our White Boards and drew a medal. We made 37 pie pieces out of it, and each person on the team signed their sliver of the pie piece to show how important each and every person is in our gym,” Barrick said. “Even if they’re not playing, they play so hard at practice, giving it everything they have every single day, and that shows up on the court. Those who don’t play are so enthusiastic, and we need that. It’s important to have all that support behind us at all times.”
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness