For the 18th time in 20 seasons, the Hempfield girls volleyball team will play in the District Three finals.
The Black Knights defeated Elizabethtown 3-0 Thursday night in the District Three Class 4A semifinals in Landisville, surviving a tight first set en route to the sweep and clinching a spot in the championship match.
“This is the seventh out of my eight years that we’re going to the district final,” Hempfield coach Andrew Olree began, “but these girls are working so hard, it’s really hats off to them for coming in here and working as hard as they are.”
No. 2 Hempfield (19-0) will face top-seeded Cumberland Valley (15-1) Saturday at 3 p.m. at a site to be announced. Cumberland Valley defeated No. 4 Wilson (20-2) in four sets on Thursday.
The Hempfield-Elizabethtown semifinal was a rematch of the Lancaster-Lebanon League championship, won by the Black Knights in five sets.
The energy from that match spilled over into the opening set Thursday, with the Black Knights and the Bears exchanging late leads before Hempfield won the game 26-24.
Trailing 16-11, Hempfield got multiple digs from libero Allison Cummings before a kill from Joslene Morgan helped spark a 10-2 run and a 21-18 Knights’ advantage.
The Bears responded with a 5-0 run for a 23-21 lead, getting two kills from Angela Costa-Ouimet (eight assists, six digs, one ace) during the run.
Cummings (16 digs) saved the next ball out of bounds, somehow managing to get it over the net for a Hempfield point.
An E-town hitting error and a Sarah Hess kill gave Hempfield a 24-23 lead, before Stewart (10 kills, 12 digs) knotted the score with a kill down the line.
But Hempfield setter Melody Butzer (16 assists) found freshman Addison Leber (six kills) on the outside for the go-ahead kill, and another E-town error closed the set.
“It was frustrating because we got the lead, we were moving well, siding out,” Bears’ head coach Karen Eberly said. “When they got the lead, we tried to fight back. They got it to game point and took it from us.”
The momentum remained in Hempfield’s corner the remainder of the match, with the Knights winning game two 25-18 and game three 25-17.
“Even after the second set it’s like we’ve been here before, we can come back and get the third set,” Eberly said. “Just didn’t get it done tonight.”
The blocking of Hess (six kills, four blocks), Morgan (five kills, three aces) and Camille De La Torre (four kills, two blocks) factored into Hempfield’s success.
Kallee Locker (five kills) and Paige Horst (12 digs, one ace) rounded out E-town’s top performances.