Season for the ages

Dragons finish as PIAA 3A runner-up

Warren Area High School senior volleyball captains, from left, Celia Chase, Julia Lobdell, Lydia Latimer and Ellie Lobdell show the full range of emotions as they accept the PIAA runner-up trophy on Saturday at Cumberland Valley High School.

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – Ladies, you are legendary.

Warren volleyball traveled to Cumberland Valley High School in search of a state championship on Saturday against West York, which would have been just the second in the history of the school in any sport.

And while they came up short of the final prize, falling 3-0 (25-22, 25-15, 25-20) in a battle for the 3A crown, they departed as champions.

District 10 champions for the first time in program history. Champions to a community they inspired, to coaches who guided them every step along the way, to fellow students who cheered as loud as they could each and every game during this amazing journey, and to their families who have raised them, watching them grow into the amazing young women they are today, both on and off the court.

“It’s been unreal,” said senior Lydia Latimer, playing her final game in a Dragon uniform.

Lydia Latimer goes high over the net for an attack.

Added head coach Mike Dolan: “It’s just been so great. It’s kind of overwhelming. These guys are so mature. They’ve handled everything so well. They came down here ready to play. I don’t think we played bad. We ran into a tough team. They made a few more digs than us, had a few more good attacks than we did, served a little bit better than us and here we are.”

And Warren didn’t lose it, West York won it.

The Bulldogs had a balanced effort across the board, with Julia Rill (12 kills) and Tesia Thomas (11 kills) leading the way.

Thomas proved particularly effective, combining with Latimer on the Warren side for a fierce battle in the middle.

“We haven’t faced a middle lik

e her,” Dolan said. “She’s so athletic. She can elevate high enough to go around Lydia at times, which not many people can do.”

The Dragons huddle up just moments before the start of their state championship game against West York at Cumberland Valley High School on Saturday.

Latimer opened the match with a kill that sparked an early run for the Dragons (21-1), and a kill from Ellie Lobdell made it 9-4, prompting West York coach Joe Ramp to call timeout.

The Bulldogs settled in from that point forward, going on a 10-1 spurt to take a 14-10 lead, with Rill, Thomas and Alayna Harris all recording kills.

Warren rallied to tie it, 16-16, but in what was a game full of runs, West York rattled off seven of the next nine points to assume control and ultimately take a 1-0 lead.

“We just let a few too many balls drop, especially in that first game,” Dolan said. “We had them there for a while. There were really a lot of runs in that first game.”

It was the first time Warren had dropped the first game at any point this season.

The Warren Area High School volleyball team stands for the national anthem before Saturday’s PIAA title game.

They still felt like they were in good shape, however.

“I don’t think they ever felt like they weren’t going to come back,” Dolan said. “That’s just the way they are.”

And it looked that way early in the second, as setter Lex Nyquist found a good rhythm and Jordan Sitler, Celia Chase and Latimer all had strong attacks in helping the Dragons to an early 6-4 lead.

Again, however, West York went on a big run, this one 8-0, and, while the Dragons got back within four on a kill from Ellie Lobdell, they couldn’t fight their way back into the set.

Game three went much like the first, as neither team led by more than three until a kill by Rill made it 19-15.

The PIAA runner-up.

Warren got it back to within one, 20-19 on a kill by Chase, but a great play by Rill put the ball in the corner, just past a diving Lobdell, and the Bulldogs at that point could smell the state title.

“That was a really big point,” added Dolan. “They made a nice play pushing the ball back to the corner like that. The team that wins usually gets those.

“She (Rill) was better than I saw on film. She’s really good. She changed speed, she can really hit hard and picks her spots.”

Just moments later, the celebration was on for the Bulldogs.

And while the sting of losing was very raw and very real in the moments immediately after, the realization of what they accomplished this season wasn’t lost on anyone.

Ellie Lobdell (10) and Jordan Sitler go up for a block attempt.

“I would have said you’re a little crazy, but I kind of believe you,” Latimer said in response if she could have imagined the season ending in the state title game at the start of the year. “When we won the Fort LeBoeuf tournament, I was like ‘this is going to be a good season,’ and it turned out to be an amazing season. I’m just so proud of everyone.”

It was the culmination of so much, not least of which was the incredible amount of work that went into a season that will certainly go down as one of the best in the history of Warren athletics.

Latimer had 10 kills,7 digs and 3 blocks Ellie Lobdell 5 kills, 8 digs and 2 blocks, Julia Lobdell 5 digs, Chase 8 kills and 7 digs, Nyquist 24 assists, 12 digs, 2 kills and 1 block, Grace Wortman 10 digs and 1 block and Sitler 6 kills, 2 blocks and 3 digs.

“Going to the absolute last game that we could is awesome,” said senior Trinity Wennberg. “There’s no words for how hard we worked in practices, how many times we did ladder and hated it and tried to get out of it. All those practices that we didn’t want to get up for in the mornings. All the lifting we didn’t want to do. It brought us to the last game.”

Wennberg played just one season of high school volleyball – this one, but the team-first, selfless attitude she has was indicative of this entire team.

There are no egos with this group.

They adored playing and practicing with each other every single day.

“I still haven’t realized it (that the season is over),” Latimer, who will play collegiately for Cleveland State next season, said. “In a few days I will when I’m like ‘I don’t have volleyball practice, I don’t know what to do.'”

What they no doubt will do, along with everyone who has enjoyed this amazing season, is celebrate it for what it was.


Loud and proud, the Flannel Panel cheers on their Dragons in the state championship.

Celia Chase goes up for a kill attempt.

Grace Wortman sends the ball over the net.


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