Spring Grove High's Maggie Hoff was introduced to a different volleyball breed Thursday night at Hempfield High during the quarterfinals of the District 3 Class AAA girls tournament.
"I don't know what they feed each other over there," Hoff, a junior outside hitter for the Rockettes, said of top-seeded Garden Spot. "You leave York County and it's like a new world."
The Lady Spartans, anchored by a triple tower combo of Ashley Schnader, Rachel Wenger and Lauren Horst, took three straight games from the underdog story of the tournament, Spring Grove, and earned a place in the semifinals with wins of 25-21, 25-15, 25-16.
Garden Spot will face Penn Manor on Saturday in Dallastown. Penn Manor defeated Dallastown in the second match on Thursday.
"I think the reality of where they are and what they were doing here (didn't set in)," Lady Rockets head coach Dawn Myers said.
Spring Grove earned the right to play in the district tournament Monday after it played well in the preliminary round. On Tuesday, after qualifying for pool play action, the Rockettes outplayed higher-seeded South Western and Daniel Boone, securing a place in the quarterfinals.
Spring Grove, on paper, shouldn't have even been here.
"We're so young and we're going up against such mature teams that we have to be mature, too," Hoff said. "And we might not be there skill-wise, so we have to do the best that we can to play to their ability.
But there the Rockettes were, squaring off against one of District 3's best teams, a team as recently as Week 9 was ranked No. 8 in the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association Class AAA poll.
The Rockettes looked like they belonged in the first game, taking Garden Spot down to the wire. That fact was evident as the point difference between the teams never broke three points until the last point of the match.
But in the second game, the Rockettes allowed the Lady Spartans to get out to an early lead and never challenged. The third was much like the first, but a late six-point scoring stretch by Garden Spot sealed the deal.
Ultimately, Myers said the Lady Spartans were just too good. Lady Spartan head coach Dennis Warner admitted his team had one of its best blocking nights of the season.
Schnader, Wenger and Horst - each standing about 6-foot-1 - were very impressive in front of the net and prevented Spring Grove's outside hitters from getting into any rhythm.
"They did a nice job with their height tonight," Myers said.
Hoff had eight kills and eight digs and Ali Gantz had 28 assists and five digs.
"This team has incredible potential and they did a real nice job at the end coming together as a team," Myers said. "I'm very proud of them because, in the middle of the season, we would not have expected to come this far."
Contact Cory Mull at firstname.lastname@example.org.