MECHANICSBURG — With the season still young and leaves still rusting on the trees, the North Catholic High School volleyball team crammed onto a bus and headed east for a weekend tournament.
It was a forgettable trip.
There was infighting. The hotel where the Trojanettes stayed left a lot to be desired, and they played terribly against Trinity of Camp Hill, getting swept out of the gym.
“Yeah, we had a really rough time,” said junior outside hitter Ally Feczko. “It was such a rough trip in general.”
The one North Catholic made in the chill of a waning November ended up much better.
Squaring off against Trinity again nearly three months after that first horrible trip, the Trojanettes outlasted the Shamrocks to win the first set, dominated the second and rallied in the third to earn a 25-20, 25-19, 25-23 sweep to win the PIAA Class 2A championship Saturday afternoon at Cumberland Valley High School.
“Honestly, we never talked about that trip (in early September),” said North Catholic coach Amanda Fetter. “We just used what happened out here early in the season as a learning experience and fixed everything we needed to fix.”
There wasn't anything broken on Saturday.
Feczko dominated with 25 kills — Trinity had little answer for the 5-foot-10 star. North Catholic also was strong at the net on defense with middle hitters Katie McNelly, Stephanie Lynch and others coming up with key blocks.
“Our whole team works really, really well together,” McNelly said. “I'm so blessed to have such an amazing team to work with.”
The two teams traded points for much of the first set before North Catholic pulled away late for the five-point win.
The Trojanettes jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the second set, held off a Trinity rally, and cruised to the victory and a 2-0 advantage.
Feczko had 10 of her kills in the second set alone.
“I woke up today and had a good feeling,” Feczko said. “I didn't want to jinx myself or anything, but I thought it was going to be a good day.”
Even with a 2-0 lead, North Catholic didn't feel completely comfortable.
It was just two years ago when the Trojanettes were down in the state title match 2-0 against North Penn-Liberty and rallied to win 3-2.
They know more than most teams how quickly fates can change.
It wasn't the best start to the third set for North Catholic, which faced a quick 3-0 hole and found itself down 18-14 at one point.
The Trojanettes, though, took advantage of a few Trinity miscues to draw even, then Feczko got hot again with a series of thunderous kills that completely shifted the moment.
Her 25th kill of the match ended it and sent North Catholic into a wild celebration.
It's the second state title in the last three years for the Trojanettes. Last year, North Catholic was upended in the semifinals by Phillipsburg-Osceola, which lost the state title match to Trinity.
“Any time you get here is a blessing,” Fetter said. “Each one is different. Each one has a totally different group of memories accompanying it. This one was 3-0 and the last one we had to come back to win 3-2. This one, though, had a lot of things that made it amazing.”
Trinity was playing without two-time all-state selection Lauren Trumpy. The senior middle hitter was injured not long after the first meeting against North Catholic.
“She has a full-ride to Northwestern to play basketball,” said Trinity coach John Barrick. “She went down about a month ago, so we had time to adjust.”
Trinity, though, couldn't adjust to North Catholic's relentless attack.
“North Catholic was phenomenal,” Barrick said. “They played what I'm sure they feel is their best match this season. They really did. They were solid the whole way around. What we saw on game tape from them did not show up here on the court (Saturday). Their outside hitters just killed us. Amazing job by them.”
This is the first time in school history that North Catholic has won both a WPIAL and PIAA title in the same season.
The Trojanettes finished 20-0. The match against Trinity in September didn't count in the standings because it was played in a tournament setting.
“This season has been so exciting,” McNelly said. “It's hard to put into words. This is North's first time getting both WPIAL and states, so to be a part of that is amazing. All the girls are having so much fun right now.”