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Volleyball tops Emmaus in D-11 semifinals

Editor’s note: Because of space issues in last week’s Whitehall-Coplay Press, we were unable to print the story about the volleyball team’s victory in the District 11 semifinals.

Anyone who watched the Whitehall Zephyrs during their last timeout could see impending victory in their eyes, two points away from winning a District XI Class 3A volleyball semifinal against Emmaus.

Jack Kocher brought the Zephyrs within one, and on the last play, Ethan Ringenberger and Brandon Bird darted toward the sideline but thought twice before touching a ball that appeared to be heading out of bounds.

It did, and with that, Whitehall won the match, 3-1 (25-20, 21-25, 25-21, 25-21), on May 23 at Catasauqua High School, sending the Zephyrs to the district final against Parkland.

“My emotions are all over the place right now. Very excited. Happy,” said Ringenberger. “On the final point, I really wanted to get up and swing on that ball, but I had to be disciplined, and I dropped my hands and let it go out of bounds.”

It was the second time the Zephyrs defeated the Hornets this postseason, but it was a first, more or less, for Ringenberger.

“Against Emmaus (on May 15), I was injured, and I only could serve, so that was tough on me. I still experienced the win, but it wasn’t the same as today,” he said. “Today, I really gave it my all. I knew I had to make something happen. When we’re out there, and the set’s close and the set starts reverting back to the lull, we could only do one thing, and we rose above.”

Whitehall took control of the first set while Kocher, who scored the winning point in that set, tallied his 1,000th kill on his second spike.

“The whole season, Coach told me, ‘You’re this many away, you’re this many away,’ and then tonight before the game, he says, ‘Oh yeah, you’re two away, by the way,’” Kocher said.

Kocher was, in fact, counting the first two of his 18 total kills on the night and was awarded the game ball after the match.

Emmaus took its first significant lead halfway through the second set, and after a Whitehall timeout, Omar Tembo and Kocher pulled the Zephs within two points.

Ringenberger’s kill to the corner made the score 22-21, but Emmaus scored the next three points for the win.

“I wanted to be up 2-0. We always want it to be that way,” said Whitehall coach George Cowitch. “We weren’t getting a good match-up, in my opinion, so we moved the lineup just a little bit, and we knew we weren’t gonna score up front, and then we did on the back end and got Jack in the front row. That was the plan, and it worked.”

Ringenberger’s consecutive kills put the Zephyrs up early in the third, Tembo’s play at the net extended the lead, and Cole Richards’s crosscourt kill put Whitehall up by five, followed by a block from Michael Rabih, and a Kocher kill.

“It was very crucial to win the third set because you win the momentum there,” said Kocher, “and that way you know you don’t have to play to five when you can win in the fourth.”

A couple of late Whitehall errors let Emmaus back in the third set but unable to catch the Zephs.

Emmaus scored three straight points to open the fourth set, but a block by Ringenberger and Peter Tabarani tied it,16-16, and a kill by Tembo to the middle put the Zephyrs ahead, 20-17.

Then, at 23-21, Kocher’s kill to the corner made the score, 24-21, and an out-of-bounds return from the Hornets ended the match.

“Anytime you beat them, and we’ve only ever beat them eight times, now nine, they’re always top-notch, so to take them out two times and get to a championship, that feels extra sweet,” said Cowitch, who had high praise for his assistants, Andy Fehnel, Doug Barriner, and Cristal Fernandez, and his players. “Our assistant coaches are the best in the league, and we had a good team effort. That’s exactly what we talked about. I think that was big tonight to help us win.”

Also notable was the fact that the Zephyrs were perfect on serves all night.

“That’s insane,” Cowitch said. “I was thinking in the fourth set, I don’t think we missed a serve.”

It’s uncertain as to whether Cowitch was keeping track of his own stats, but the Zephyr head coach tallied his 250th victory on the same night, and with the semifinal win, the Zephyrs have earned a spot in the state tournament.

“Play our brand of volleyball,” said Kocher. “Play hard and play the way we did tonight.”

“Play our brand of volleyball,” said Kocher. “Play hard and play the way we did tonight.”

Press photo by Katie McDonald Whitehall outside hitter Jack Kocher with the game ball from Coach George Cowitch after reaching more than 1,000 kills during the District XI Class 3A volleyball semifinal on May 23. Cowitch won his 250th match on the same night.