Lititz Christian claims first-ever District crown

By on November 28, 2018
Members of the Lititz Christian School girls volleyball team pose with their District Three Single-A championship medals and trophy. Pictured are (front row, left to right) Moriah Kreiser, Moe Tsuyuki, and Maggie Gelgot; (back, l-r) co-head coach Denise Kennedy, Amy Zhou, Ai Yokoyama, Evie Cadwalader, Nicole Schlegel, Kierra Flahive Kyiah Flahive, Nichole Stanley, and co-head coach Ross McCracken.

Members of the Lititz Christian School girls volleyball team pose with their District Three Single-A championship medals and trophy. Pictured are (front row, left to right) Moriah Kreiser, Moe Tsuyuki, and Maggie Gelgot; (back, l-r) co-head coach Denise Kennedy, Amy Zhou, Ai Yokoyama, Evie Cadwalader, Nicole Schlegel, Kierra Flahive Kyiah Flahive, Nichole Stanley, and co-head coach Ross McCracken.

The third time was the charm for the Lititz Christian School girls volleyball team.

After coming up short in their first two trips to the District 3 Single-A Championships in 2014-15, the Lady Eagles got another shot in early November.

And this time, they wouldn’t be denied.

Led by junior Kierra Flahive’s 16 kills, to go along with junior Maggie Gelgot’s 27 digs and sophomore Moe Tsuyuki’s 34 assists and nine aces, Lititz Christian outlasted reigning champ Covenant Christian Academy 25-23, 25-22, 18-25, 25-22 to win the title at Dallastown High School on Nov. 3.

It was not only the first-ever District crown for the Lady Eagles’ volleyball team, but the first for any sport at Lititz Christian School.

“It’s pretty much surreal,” Lititz Christian co-coach Denise Kennedy said. “I still go back and say, ‘Did we really do that?’”

Both Kennedy and co-coach Ross McCracken agreed that their team was good enough to compete for the CCAC championship, which they won by defeating Mount Calvary in the finals on Saturday, Oct. 27.

But making a run at the District crown? It wasn’t on their radar, especially with only two seniors — Nikki Schlegel and Nichole Stanley — on their roster.

“We had girls just really step up and play really well,” McCracken said. “I thought we were going to be good, but I didn’t think we’d be this good.”

Mental toughness, as McCracken noted, was a key component to their success. So was their tight-knit chemistry.

“The team, in general, just had a family atmosphere and played together,” he said.

“Districts is a big step,” Kennedy said. “Even though we’re Single-A, we’re still one of the smaller Single-A schools. We’re going against teams whose varsity team is as big as our JV and varsity combined. But the strength was that they really bought into the team concept. They weren’t a single-player team. They encouraged each other, and from the very beginning of the season, we talked about the word ‘team.’

Together, the Lady Eagles rallied from an early deficit against Halifax (16-5) in the District semi-finals, bouncing back from a 25-22 first game loss to take the next three, 25-20, 25-22, 25-15 to advance to the championship match.

“I think that was a big key to our team — we were very mentally strong,” McCracken said. “We didn’t get down on ourselves. We never quit.”

In particular, quit wasn’t in Lititz Christian’s vocabulary when it came to making a play on defense. Gelgot played a huge role in keeping balls alive as the libero, finishing among the team leaders in digs.

“She’s super competitive,” McCracken said. “She just always wanted to get better and always had the mentality that nothing was going to hit the ground.”

Gelgot, though, certainly had a lot of help from others.

“Moriah Kreiser, our defensive specialist, was back there, and both the Flahive girls — Kierra and Kyiah — were fantastic back-row players,” Kennedy said. “Even though they were our big hitters also, they just were great passers and were all over the place going for those loose balls. We passed really well and I think teams that could hit weren’t used to balls coming back up and over the net. We worked on that a lot.”

Another player, sophomore middle hitter/middle blocker Evie Cadwalader, made her presence known while scoring three straight points in the fourth game of the District finals against Covenant Christian, helping Lititz Christian cut its deficit to 16-12.

“Evie has long arms,” Kennedy said, “and her timing was really good with blocking.”

Although Kennedy believed the Lady Eagles had more height this year than in previous seasons, they still were smaller than most teams they played.

“We didn’t care how big we were,” McCracken said. “we didn’t care how big the other team was — we weren’t going to let the ball hit the ground.”

The ball didn’t the ground at all during an 8-0 run by the Lady Eagles which gave them a 20-16 advantage against Covenant Christian. Kierra Flahive put away two kills in that stretch.

“If we wanted a kill, we’d go to those two girls (Kierra and Kyiah Flahive),” McCracken said. “Middle hitter Nichole Stanley brought a lot of spirit and personality to the team, and right side hitter Nikki Schlegel is a super smart player who just didn’t make a lot of mistakes.”

The Lady Cougars pulled even, looking force a decisive fifth game, but the Flahive sisters had other ideas, putting Lititz Christian up for good, 24-22, and then Schlegel’s ace clinched the championship.

A lot of Lititz Christian’s attack went through setter Tsuyuki, who excelled in handling the quarterback duties.

“She was definitely the best setter I’ve seen at her level,” McCracken said. “She could put the ball wherever she wanted it, when she wanted it. It didn’t matter where she was running from. She got to every ball and she was on the ground more than she wasn’t. She’s a competitor.”

Advancing to States, Lititz Christian knocked off District Four champ Canton 3-1 (17-25, 25-15, 25-19, 25-17), then ended their season with a 3-0 loss to District 11 gold medalist Nativity (25-14, 25-16, 25-23) in the quarterfinals.

“Nativity was an awesome team, they were really good,” McCracken said.

In the end, the Lady Eagles finished a historic season with a solid 21-4 record.

“It was huge for the school,” McCracken said. “Everything we do, we do together, so we brought the most fans, we brought the loudest fans, we took fan bases to places, so it was a cool experience and we kinda did everything together as a school. So not only did our team win Districts, but I feel like our school won Districts as well.”

For Kennedy, she hopes that the success of the girls volleyball team gives hope to other Lititz Christian teams that winning a District championship is achievable.

“It’s not something that’s out of reach for any team at Lititz Christian,” she said. “You’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to put in the time, you’ve got to believe, but it is possible, no matter what sport you play at Lititz Christian. It was an amazing feeling. And we’re really grateful for the support that we had with our fans, the parents, and the administration because that made a huge difference in our season. This group of girls was very unique and special. I can’t emphasize that enough. They worked well together and you get that group of girls once in awhile and that’s what made this season such a great season. It was a joy.”

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