Zephs look to close regular season
The Whitehall boys volleyball team is moving closer to a perfect regular season.
Monday’s win over William Allen lifts their record to 16-0. They swept the Canaries, 25-9, 25-7, 25-12 to stay on track for an undefeated season, with games against Southern Lehigh and Parkland remaining on their schedule.
A big part of that success can be attributed to their strong senior class. They are the pillars on which this undefeated season rests. And they were recognized before the game against the Canaries. These five seniors have made an indelible mark on the program, and their efforts were applauded before the home crowd as Joseph Herman, Alex Khouri, Rick Melsoky, Ian Frankenfield and Aziz Atiyeh stood together to play one of their last matches at Zephyr Gymnasium.
Head coach George Cowitch said that he reminded the players that it wasn’t their last home match, noting that they’ve earned another home court match by virtue of their regular season play, something that’s held true the last few years. He said it serves as a template for the younger players on how they want to approach every season. And that approach is led by the seniors.
One of those seniors is Atiyeh. As the libero, he’s the glue that holds it all together. Often times he’s the first player to touch the ball, digging the opposition’s serve or volley to get their offense in motion. He finished the game with 10 digs and two aces.
He also serves as the court general, instructing his teammates on positioning.
“My role is to make sure everybody is where they’re supposed to be,” said Atiyeh.
He said as the libero, he also has to know everyone’s rotation, and that was evident against Allen as he directed a teammate on where to be on the court.
“I have to make sure that this whole thing stays intact or it won’t work as well, but I have a great group of guys, coaching staff, and everybody surrounding me, so that makes my job so much easier,” said Atiyeh.
Cowitch appreciates everything Atiyeh brings to the court.
“He’s so fiery; he’s everything you ask for in a libero,” said Cowitch.
Cowitch said that his intensity is reminiscent of former Zephyr Doug Barriner, the prototypical libero who would run through a wall to make a play.
“Aziz does that; he’s such a good leader,” Cowitch said.
Those leadership skills were on full display as he remained on the court the entire match, making sure the younger players knew where they were supposed to be. Cowitch said that they would have been lost a little bit without his presence, and he was that glue that held it together.
The Zephyrs have been knocking on the door for an EPC or district championship since he stepped onto the court four years ago, and Atiyeh said that this senior class is working hard to make those championships a reality.
He said that the came in tonight, like they do every night, making sure they stay focused on the task at hand. He said that this senior group is committed to making this postseason memorable.
“We’re striving for one goal, and that’s to win a championship,” said Atiyeh.
He knows that Parkland will come ready to play, and so will Southern Lehigh, so they must be prepared for the challenge.
“It all depends on us,” said Atiyeh. “The rest of the season is what we want and what we’re striving for.”
Cowitch said that they understand the big picture and the ultimate goal is still winning league and district championships, but they still must take care of business the final week of the season.
“These guys know that and they’re laser focused,” said Cowitch.
He said that they started sharp against Allen, reminding his team before the game that it’s time to get into playoff mode.
“And I think that you saw that tonight,” said Cowitch.
In the first set, Frankenfied and Melosky were having a block party at the net, helping the Zephs dash out to an early lead. Herman was effective from the front line as well, finishing with six kills. Khouri was also productive as the middle hitter, registering six kills and three aces.
In the second set, Dylan McGinley put his whipsaw in motion, walloping a number of winners from the frontcourt. He finished with seven kills and two blocks.