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Boys volleyball returns key players

Before last season, the Emmaus High School boys volleyball team had won two straight District 11 Class 3A championships and seemed like one of the favorites for the 2019 title. But an injury and a midseason departure saw the Hornets lose two key players toward the end of last season, derailing any plans at winning a third consecutive title

The Hornets fell to Freedom in the district quarterfinal round last spring.

Emmaus finished last season with a 12-4 overall record and had to play the latter part of the regular season and the entire postseason without All-Eastern Pennsylvania Conference First Team selection Stephen Reynolds, who suffered a late-season injury. That presented some challenges to head coach Ken Dunkle’s lineup.

“It was a challenge for us losing some of our better players right when we needed them the most,” said the sixth-year head coach. “Team chemistry took a hit and some younger, more inexperienced guys had to step in unexpectedly. I was proud of the way they finished off the season and worked hard.”

Some players returning from last year’s team that are expected to contribute include seniors Miguel Abadilla, Riley Bender, Nathan Eshleman and Noah Szankovics, juniors Haydn Child and Gannon DeFrain and sophomore Nick Blose.

“I’m really excited about the season,” said Dunkle. “I think we have a lot of talent on offense and defense. This is going to allow us to be very flexible at all positions. At this point, my only concern is depth at one or two positions. As long as we stay healthy, we should be fine. Otherwise, we might have to get creative.”

Three newcomers Dunkle is excited about joining the varsity program include juniors Kyle McKiernan and Chris Patel, along with sophomore Noah Parker.

“Our goal this year is the same as every year,” Dunkle said. “Strive for continuous improvement throughout the season and see how deep we can go in districts and states. I think we have the pieces to make another good run this season. We will be working a lot on every player being flexible in their role so if we should have any issues with losing key position players like we did last year, then we have guys ready to change rolls and fill in where needed.

“I’m excited about the season,” Dunkle said. “So far the guys are working really hard and playing very well as a team. The chemistry on the team is great. We are trying some new things that should make us nimbler as a team and actually make things a little more fun. The guys have bought in to the changes and are doing a great job practicing and incorporating them.”