Posted/Updated: 5/26/2017 1:17:59 PM

Emmaus boys volleyball rises back on top of District 11 with win over Whitehall

When James Haag’s final swing Thursday night saw the ball go off the hands of a Whitehall block and onto the hardwood, the Emmaus boys volleyball team had secured its first District 11 title since 2013.

The celebration hardly lived up to the setting.

Instead, the Green Hornets quickly got in line to shake hands, receive their medals and a trophy, and began to move on to the next one.

Emmaus (21-0) won its second championship of the postseason in addition to the EPC crown, this one another 3-0 (25-16, 25-23, 25-21) sweep of the Zephyrs at Allen’s Sewards Gymnasium.

“It feels fantastic,” senior libero Brendan Dunkle said. “We tried really hard for this, we went undefeated the entire year and it’s just really nice to culminate with this win.”

Up next is the Class 3A state tournament, on which the Green Hornets already have their sights set. It will begin on Tuesday with a first-round matchup against the second place team from District 12 at a site and time to be determined.

“The guys, I’m sure, are excited, although we’ve been focusing all season that we can go on a deep run in states,” head coach Ken Dunkle said. “I think you could tell, after we won they were like, ‘Okay, it’s another step.’ We’re excited, but we got more work to do.”

Whitehall (19-4) will join them in the state playoffs, its first-round matchup set to be against either Dallstown or Penn Manor, also at a site and time to be determined. The Zephyrs made a late charge in each set to threaten Emmaus’ perfect postseason, with senior outside hitter Logan McGinley leading the way, but they ran out of gas in the end.

“We knew that was going to happen because of the lineup that we put in there,” Whitehall coach George Cowtich said. “So we were going to start slow and then the charge was going to happen late. We were good at the net and serve-receiving well, just too many timely errors in the beginning that hurt us in all the sets, really.”

Senior outside hitter Noah Bacon led the Green Hornets with 11 kills, four digs, two blocks and an ace. Haag, a junior outside, added 10 kills, five digs, two blocks and an ace while senior middle hitter Carson Landis rounded out the offensive attack with eight kills and two blocks. Junior middle Matt Swanson added five blocks and four kills and senior opposite Jacob Rumfield chipped in nine digs and two blocks while Brendan Dunkle anchored the defense with 19 digs and three aces.

Junior setter Cameron Parsons, the EPC MVP, ran the offense with 33 assists to go with six digs and one kill.

In each of the last three seasons, Emmaus had fallen short of a district crown — twice in the final to Parkland and then in the semifinals to Liberty last year. Those experiences helped shape this season’s championship squad.

“It means a lot to us,” Parsons said. “Being here for the past three years and not being able to get it and then finally coming for us this year, we had all the assets to do it.”

Bacon, in his first year on the team after not having played organized volleyball since middle school, proved to be a difference maker Thursday, particularly in the early going to set the Green Hornets in the right direction.

“This is the second of our three goals this year,” Bacon said. “It definitely sets us up well for the state tournament. The EPC title and this is nice, but we got one more to go still.”

The run has been all the more special for Ken Dunkle with his son Brendan playing an integral part in Emmaus’ success.

“He’s doing a great job,” Ken Dunkle said. “It’s always fun watching your kids — not that it’s not challenging coaching your kids, but to be able to coach him and watch him excel like that, it’s special.”

The Zephyrs, meanwhile, reached both championships in the postseason thus far with the play of McGinley and senior setter Joey Maamari serving as spark plugs.

“It’s crazy. Four years ago, you have a vision for these guys and you don’t come in here and just say, ‘I want to get to districts and be happy,’” Cowitch said. “The vision is to get there. We told these guys, ‘We’re going to get there four years from now.’ It’s awesome for them to be able to play in two championship games.”

Having played the Green Hornets three times, Whitehall is confident that experience can pay off at the state level.

“We watched both (Dallastown and Penn Manor) on film. They’re good,” Cowitch said. “I wouldn’t say they’re as high-caliber as Emmaus, so it’s going to be a great match. I can’t wait to play in that. … Playing one of the best teams in the state three times and knowing you can stack up is a good thing.”

Greg Joyce may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GJoyce9.

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