Whitehall moves on to the EPC finals
Monday’s semifinal match of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Boys Volleyball Championships represented a big hurdle, one in which the Zephyrs decidedly overcame in their attempt to claim a league title.
They defeated their nemesis Emmaus, a team that’s stood in the way of their pursuit of both league and district titles the last couple of years. They took the match in straight sets, knocking off the Hornets 27-25, 25-16, 27-25 to set up a championship match against Freedom on Wednesday.
It was a just the first time since 2010 that Whitehall has emerged victorious against the Green Hornets in the postseason. And they needed to weather some late rallies by the Hornets in two of the sets to advance to the finals.
But advance they did. And this collection of veterans will look to win their first postseason title since 2010 when they won the District XI AAA championship.
The match began a little slow for the Zephyrs who found themselves down early to the Green Hornets. Head coach George Cowitch attributed that to some tightness, but once they settled in, they were able to do some good things.
And those nerves faded away once Rick Melosky provided a big spark after a long volley that saw the ball travel over the net a number of times until the senior setter scored the winning point to put them up 11-9. It was an emotional point that seemed to galvanize them.
From that point, they began to build a lead, darting out to an 18-11 advantage. That run was fueled by some outstanding plays by Aziz Atiyeh who made some lunging digs, as well as some emphatic Alex Khouri kills.
But the Hornets refused to go away, and they kept creeping closer. But every time they looked poised to take the lead, Joe Herman rose up and put the ball down. Cowitch said that Melosky likes to feed Herman in those situations.
Cowitch also said that they were having some issues hitting into their blocks. But they got back to their attack mode of “high, hard and deep,” with Herman providing the spark to get them over the finish line in that first set.
“Joe-Joe did his thing,” said Cowitch.
Herman relishes those situations. He wants the ball when the match is on the line.
“I’m happy to do that; I like putting the ball down,” said Herman who finished with 19 kills and 12 digs. “It’s awesome bringing momentum to the team, and giving energy to the team which helps us win the game.”
He became that rally buster in the first set and it stopped the Hornets from a first set victory.
Herman said that capturing that first set was crucial for the Zephs as it set the tone the rest of the match.
“It was very important; it was a big confidence booster to win that first set,” said Herman.
In the second set, Hunter Pinkey had some ferocious kills. And Dylan McGinley also began to warm up. He finished with 10 kills, with the final monster swat closing out the match to propel them into the finals.
Melosky played a superb all around game, registering 35 assists and three aces. Also, Atiyeh had 27 digs.
Leading up to the EPC playoffs, the Zephyrs faced Parkland in the final match of the season. It was a grueling five-setter with the Zephyrs finally prevailing, preserving their perfect regular season. It also got them battle-tested heading into the playoffs.
“It was good because we were pushed,” said Cowitch.
He said that their experience in those situations helped them ultimately close out the match.
“We were there before, so we knew had to deal with it,” Said Cowitch. “The end result was there. Our guys just didn’t want to lose.”
With Freedom mow standing in their way of a league championship, Cowitch knows it’s not going to be easy. He said that coach John Yanek has his team playing really well right now.
“We know what we need to do and what we have to do,” said Cowitch.
Herman also knows what’s at stake.
“We want to bring home a championship to Whitehall for the first time in nine years; that’s the main goal,” said Herman.