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Hurricanes are hitting their stride

Mike Zile feels the pieces of the puzzle are coming together for Liberty’s volleyball team.

Now it’s just a matter of putting the final touches on a campaign that has flourished as of late. The Hurricanes (7-4) are winners of five straight matches and it’s been a process to overcome their slow start to the season, but Zile feels the team has continued to develop over the course of the season.

“One of the turning points was the third set against Freedom, where we ended up moving Brandon Achey to hit the rest of the match and put in Naseem Younes (junior) and Cristian Matos (freshman) to share the setting duties. We ended up coming back and winning the final three sets to win in five.”

Switching up things in the lineup has proved to be beneficial for the team, as the changes have paid dividends.

“We have been practicing different lineup variations throughout the season,” said Zile. “Joey Rachwal and Owen McFadden have both been trained as middle hitters in past seasons. We decided early on to have them hit as outside hitters when Brandon was setting. Both of them were anchoring us down on serve receive and hitting. We were able to develop our up and coming middle hitters Elden Campbell (sophomore) and Khalife Wadlington (sophomore) during that stretch.

“Our young players have done a very nice job of rising to the occasion. Lately we have shifted Joey and Owen back to middle hitter and now have Brandon back in there as one of our hitters.”

The Hurricanes mettle will be tested this week as they have matches with Easton (Tuesday), Northampton (Wednesday) and Parkland (Friday). All three teams are a combined 28-7 with the Trojans atop the conference at 12-0 and are the lone team in District 11 that are undefeated.

“The win streak has taught us that everything is starting to come together,” said Zile. “I think the players are starting to see what the team is capable of doing and that there is a higher level of volleyball that they are capable of playing at.

“The goal will be to keep focusing on being more alert on the defensive end. Defense starts with establishing the block. If we can keep that focus up then we can have a fun and productive week.”

Freedom (5-8) has struggled of late, losing five straight before topping Bethlehem Catholic last Friday. The Pates have matches against Dieruff and Allen this week, which should help them get back some momentum, but bouts with Nazareth and Parkland are also on deck.

Bethlehem Catholic (2-9) is going through one of their toughest seasons in recent memory, as the Hawks have lost six straight heading into a brutal week with Northampton, Parkland, Dieruff and Easton on the slate.

Press photo by Linda Rothrock Volleyball Freedom's Nilansh Gupta looks to keep the ball from going out of bounds during a game against Northampton. The Pates are 5-8 this season.