Log In

Reset Password

Zephs move on to EPC volleyball finals

The Whitehall Zephyrs brought their side of the house down in a 31-29 fourth-set victory that clinched a 3-1 Eastern Pennsylvania Conference semifinal against Emmaus on May 9 at William Allen High School.

“So many emotions going on,” said Whitehall defensive specialist Erick Zuniga. “I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, and it was fantastic. It’s really a nice moment.”

After eight ties at the end of the fourth set, Cole Richards’ serve didn’t make it back to the Zephyrs’ side of the net, and while Whitehall’s bench stormed the court, it took a few seconds for the players to realize that they had won.

“I don’t even know,” said Whitehall coach George Cowitch regarding his excitement as he picked up Zephyr libero Brandon Bird, “but I remember doing it now,” he laughed. “We love this group of guys. Our program’s a big family. We love them like our sons. We really do, and I’m just happy for them, getting to the final game. They deserve it. They really do. This team deserves to be in a championship game, and I’m happy for them.”

A rocky first set for the Zephyrs was Emmaus’s only win of the match, 25-17, as the Hornets led throughout.

A long rally early in the second set favored Emmaus and brought it to a 4-4 tie, but it was the last time the Hornets would have any hold on the Zephyrs.

Whitehall outside hitter Jack Kocher went up for a kill with the score 22-18, but fooled the Hornets with a tip over the net, and later served the winning point to take the second set, 25-18.

Chances are the Hornets were surprised a second time when Whitehall opposite hitter Ethan Ringenberger entered the third set to serve since an ankle injury kept him on the bench for the EPC quarterfinal.

Said Cowitch, “He asked me, ‘Coach, if I feel good after warm-ups, can I serve?’ and I said yeah. He knows his body well, and I knew he’d be effective. He goes in there, (two) aces, and did what he had to do, and that’s awesome for him.”

Emmaus coach Jonathan Wilson was forced to call a timeout with a seven-point Whitehall advantage, and after another long rally, this time that ended in favor of the Zephyrs, the Hornets continued to have trouble getting out of the single digits with Whitehall’s 20-8 lead on a kill from Omar Tembo.

Whitehall middle hitter Michael Rabih scored a nice point at the net, and Kocher found an opening on Emmaus’s side of the net for a kill that won the set, 25-19.

The Zephyrs trailed for more than half of the fourth set, a set that could put the match away for Whitehall, who was behind, 16-20, when Cowitch called a timeout.

“Emmaus was able to come back from a really big gap, so Coach said that we believe that you guys could do it too,” said Zuniga. “He said if we didn’t believe it, we wouldn’t tell you. Right after that, we came back.”

The Zephyrs scored four straight points and tied the set, 20-20, before clinching the match.

“Coach trains us at practice and puts us in the same situations. That way, when a moment like this comes, we’re ready for it, and we don’t overthink it,” Zuniga said. “Our coaches do a really good job of getting us prepared and going through everything we need to know to get us to a spot like this.”

Kocher had 20 kills, 16 digs, and 3 aces. Omar Tembo had 15 kills, and Peter Tabarani added 5 kills.

Tabarani also had 3 blocks. Richards tallied 5 blocks, and Rabih added 4 blocks.

Brandon Bird made 24 digs.

Drew Sodl tallied 23 assists while Kole Moyer added 20 assists.

“They beat us up in Set 1, and then we just challenged our guys, like, come on, that’s not what we do,” said Cowitch. “That’s not who we are. Play our brand of volleyball, and they listened.”