Volleyball falls short vs. Emmaus
Whenever the Whitehall boys volleyball team got close to capturing the lead against Emmaus last Friday, the Green Hornets always had an answer.
In the second set of their match that featured the two best teams in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, the Zephyrs were within a point of tying the Hornets on seven occasions, the latest of those coming at 21-22, but Emmaus never relinquished their grip on the lead, demonstrating why they’ve been able to remain undefeated this season.
The Zephyrs lost that pivotal second set 22-25, and then fell in the third set, allowing the Hornets to complete the sweep and hold onto the top spot in the conference. With the loss, the Zephyrs are now 11-2 on the season.
The last time these two teams met was in the District XI finals last year. This year’s showdown on Macungie Avenue contained a number of returning players, one of whom was Emmaus’ James Haag who put his imprint on the match with 12 kills and seven digs.
A big part of Emmaus’ strength is their depth and that was on display Friday night as their roster is full of a number of players who can consistently put it on the floor. Zephyr head coach George Cowitch also said that they’ve played together for a long time, including club volleyball, and that familiarity, along with their talent, has made them a powerful force in the state, let alone the conference.
Still, he believes his squad can overcome the odds, and Friday’s match was just a learning curve in the process.
The second set proved to be the lynchpin of the match, a swing game that could have given the Zephs momentum had they won, or further cemented the Hornets’ grip on the match. After dropping the first set 12-25, Whitehall got some early kills from Ethan Parvel and Joe Herman that kept them close to their rivals.
After Cowicth called a timeout, Logan McGinley emerged from that huddle to plant a winner on the floor to make it 15-18 as Whitehall kept Emmaus within striking distance.
Parvel, who had a good all-around game for the Zephs, started to assert himself in the set, scoring on a tip and kill, and then rose up for a big block at the net to draw them within three, 15-18. And when he rocketed home a winner to make the score 20-21, the emotional lift from that big kill looked like it may usher in a wave that the Zephs could ride to victory. But on the next point, a ball fell to the floor in the back line, a result of miscommunication among the Whitehall players that gave the Hornets a boost that essentially deflated the Zephyrs’ momentum.
“We had a chance at swinging at a back row attack ball, and it was set, but nobody went to make a play,” said Cowitch. “That’s a crusher right there. Maybe you get a swing on that, you get a point on that, and it changes the whole complexion of the set.”
Whitehall had been successful on back row attacks, as Herman had a kill from that position earlier in the set. The lost the opportunity to draw even with the Hornets, and that helped ignite Emmaus the rest of the way.
Coming into the match, Cowitch said that it if they could win set one or two, it makes things different, and despite the final outcome it shows how close the two teams are on the court.
“We’re right there; we’re able to pass the ball, we just have to attack better,” said Cowitch.
Setter Rick Melosky was able to get the Zephyrs into position for points, something they struggled with last year as Emmaus’s deep serves had them scrambling to set up their offense. In this match they were better at getting a good opportunity for points, but Emmaus was strong at the net, recording a number of blocks.
Emmaus features a experienced group that rotates a number of players into their line-up, most of them capable of knocking down points at the net. That group includes Matt Swanson, Tom Mazzella and setter Cam Parsons.
Cowitch said that they’re going to take the positive out of the second set and move from there.
“The fight was there,” said Cowitch. “We worked hard tonight. They’re a top team in the state for a reason, but they’re not invincible, and that’s something that we saw tonight.”