LEBANON – Quick quiz. Which girls’ sport at Elco is currently experiencing the most success?
Field Hockey? Nope.
Soccer? Try again.
Basketball? You’re getting closer.
Hint: It begins with a ‘V’ and ends with an ‘l’.
Right now, the Raider V-ballers are in the midst of unparalleled program success.
On Thursday night inside the Lebanon High gymnasium, those Raiders kept rolling along, with a 3-0 sweep of the host Cedars. Employing some precise serving and some devastating point runs, Elco dismissed Lebanon 25-4, 25-19 and 25-12.
The triumph was Elco’s ninth straight overall and sixth consecutive in Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. At 9-1 on the year and 6-0 in the circuit, the Raiders, whose only loss came at the hands of Class AAA power Cumberland Valley, have their sights firmly focused on their first-ever section title.
Last year, Elco tied for the section lead, but lost the championship to Columbia in one-game playoff.
The loss left Lebanon 4-7 on the season and 2-4 in Section Three.
“When we went to Columbia for the first time this year, the girls saw the section banner,” said Elco head coach Paul Dissinger. “We don’t have any banners hanging in our gym that recognize our program. When the girls saw the banner they said, ‘That should be our’s.’ That’s a huge motivation for the girls, to know they came that close last year.
“The season’s definitely been a success. There’s no other way to put it,” continued Dissinger. “Last year was a surprise. This year I thought if we built on it that we’d do very well. At the beginning of the season the section title was our big goal. And we wanted to go to leagues (playoffs) and win at least one game, and we wanted to go to districts (playoffs) and win at least one game. Pretty much one step further than we went last year.”
“Elco’s just very competitive,” said Lebanon High head coach Jeff Albright. “With the defense they play, there’s not an open spot on the court. They’re serving is as strong as last year, and volleyball is all about serving. If they start hitting the ball, they’ll be a great representative of our section in the postseason. I’m always rooting for Elco, because I like their players and their coach.”
On the serve of senior Tabby Litschi, the Raiders notched the first 16 points of the match, despite a Cedar timeout midway through the run. Though Lebanon performed much better and was more competitive in the second game, it fell victim to another Raider run at the end of that one as well.
With the score knotted at 18 in Game Two, and Elco coming out of a timeout, the Raiders rattled off five unanswered points on McKenna Achenbach’s service. The second game featured eight ties and four lead changes.
“Those are great,” said Dissinger of his squad’s momentum-stealing spurts. “They definitely take the pressure off you. And when you get them, they give you room for mistakes. Any team is going to be emotionally devastated by those runs.
“I thought the girls played well,” Dissinger added. “I think they lost focus in that second game. We served the ball well. This was our third match this week. I thought we’d be tired, but we played well.”
“It’s very, very difficult,” said Albright to the prospect of overcoming those runs. “When you’re being competitive, giving up four or five straight points is tough. Being down 16 is a huge hole to climb out of. It took a lot of heart to finish out the way they (his players) did.
“After the first game, we switched up our lineup,” continued Albright. “In the second game, I felt like they (his players) felt like they were in it. It just wasn’t enough at the end. That (the second) game was the one we were on our toes the most. I thought that would’ve transferred into the third game, but…”
…the third game was all Elco.
The Raiders started the game with three reserves, and not unlike the first game, ripped off nine consecutive points to open it. The closest the Cedars would come the rest of the way was 13-5.
Achenbach paced Elco with eight kills and five aces, an output that was duplicated by Litschi.
“Those were the two players who performed the best,” said Dissinger, who, as the only head coach that Elco has ever had, owns a career record of 59-39. “Everybody played well, but those players stood out, by the numbers. I think the serving, especially the last game, was key. That was certainly one of them. And I thought our passing was better.
“This late in the season, we have a lot of injuries,” said Albright. “Having girls playing different positions, they’re filling roles. We strive for unity, and I thought we performed as a unit.
“Last year, we had a tremendous season, one of the highest winning percentages in program history,” Albright added. “We had high expectations coming into the season. We’ve had injuries, but we still have a strong chance of finishing better than we did last year.
“I think the program is still on the upswing. We have good numbers going through the program, and coming up. I think we can be competitive for years to come. I’m waiting to see how this year pans out, but next year is going to be our year for something big.”