Whitehall captures league volleyball crown
Art teacher Danny Moyer better start getting his paint brush ready since he’ll have to decorate a volleyball proclaiming Whitehall as the 2019 Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Boys Volleyball champs.
It’ll be adorned with splash of maroon, a swath of gold, and filled with a lot of heart and desire.
The Zephyrs swept Freedom for the title at a crowded J. Milo Seward Gymnasium last Wednesday. They won 25-19, 26-24, 25-18 over Freedom for the EPC crown.
And the championship match fittingly ended with a Joe Herman kill, the newly crowned EPC Most Valuable Player. Herman is perhaps the one person who most embodies the team and its constant determination to win.
“It feels great; this was our goal,” said Herman. “After we lost to Central York last year [in the PIAA tournament], we knew we had a bunch of key returning players starting, and this was just the main goal all year long, and to stay focused on this moment right here.”
Herman said that it required a lot of hard work to win the championship, something every player did both on and off the court. They were all pulling in the same direction.
“It turned out great,” he said.
Herman’s commitment to winning throughout his athletic career has endeared him to not only his coaches, but to the Whitehall student body as well, chanting MVP whenever he was on the service line. That supports also plays a role.
“It feels great,” said Herman. “It doesn’t only bring me up, it brings the whole team up to have that energy from the crowd.”
And that supportive crowd was ready to witness a championship.
The Zephyrs had vanquished Emmaus in the semifinals, and all that was standing in their way now was Freedom who came into the match with a 19-3 record.
Head coach George Cowitch was at the helm the last time they won a championship in 2010, and has seen his team get close the last couple of years.
“It’s a great feeling; this is a long time coming,” said Cowitch.
He said that the disappointment they experienced the last few years was erased by the effort of all his players.
“It’s a credit to all these guys,” said Cowitch. “They worked so darn hard. They do everything we ask them to do. There’s no complaining, and that’s why we’re wearing gold.”
In the first set, the Zephs got out to an early lead, building a 20-10 advantage after a Herman tip. But the Pates began to chip away, cutting the lead to 21-18, prompting a Cowitch timeout. Freedom proved that it could be extremely dangerous, sweeping Parkland en route to the finals.
“We told them that it’s in your hands,” said Cowitch.
They responded out of that TO with a Hunter Pinkey kill, and then allowed Freedom just one more point the rest of the way to get the crucial first set victory.
Cowitch said that the team has a lot of composure, and that’s prevented them from letting the moment get too big for them. They have veterans who have been through it all and they know what it takes to win.
That composure proved critical in the second set as the game got extended. It was a back-and-forth set as Alex Khouri got them rolling early with some boomers at the net. He had three early kills, finishing with nine for the match.
They were also aided by the play of Aziz Atiyeh who anchored their defense, lunging after numerous balls to keep them in play. The senior finished with 14 digs.
However, Freedom captured a late lead, taking a 23-21 advantage. But the Zephs kept calm, and after a Melosky tip and a Herman kill to go up 25-24, Freedom lost the set on an unforced error.
The final set was a wire-to-wire win for the Zephs, highlighted by a couple of wrist rockets by Dylan McGinley. He also had a big block in that set, and had a nice tip to put them up 22-13. McGinley finished with 11 kills and two blocks.
Herman also played a big part in that win, recording tips, aces and a host of kills. He had 21 kills, two blocks, 13 digs, and two aces for the match.
Cowitch said that when a player’s hot, you go to them, and that circumstance unfolded midway through the third set as Herman reeled off four consecutive kills. Cowitch said that Melosky recognizes that Herman is hot and just keeps feeding him.
“Ricky’s a darn good setter; he’s so darn smart, and he realized that Joe-Joe was just killing it, and that’s what we taught him, and that’s what he did,” said Cowitch.
Melosky had 41 assists in the match, spearheading their offense for the title.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Melosky. “It’s just an amazing feeling to finally win after three years.”
Melosky also acknowledged the work that went into wearing the gold.
“We worked so hard in practice every day, and this was our goal from day one, to win the championship,” said Melosky. “We’re just happy that we got there and completed our goal.”
The Zephyrs didn’t get much of a respite after their EPC title. They were on the court the next night against Nazareth in the first round of the District XI 3A playoffs. They won that match 25-15, 25-15, 25-9.
They’ll face Freedom again in the semifinals, with a possible trip to the finals on Thursday night in Catty.
“The next goal is to win districts,” said Herman. “We have to take it one day at a time, one game at a time.”