Parkland High School’s girls volleyball team has taken its game to new heights as the season has unfolded.
By the time Liberty caught up on Tuesday night, it was already too late.
The fifth-seeded Trojans defeated top-seeded Liberty 25-8, 25-16, 27-25 in the District 11 Class 4A semifinals at Catasauqua High School.
Parkland advances to meet Emmaus, a 3-1 winner over Northampton, in the D-11 championship 7 p.m. Thursday back at Catty.
The Trojans dominated the first two sets by being efficient offensively and preventing almost everything from hitting their side of the floor.
“I think we were really talking together as a team,” junior libero Leah Brunnabend said. “The blockers were all on the same page, whether they were taking line or cross. In the back row, we were really communicating.”
Sophomore Brynn Dreisbach gave Parkland a 15-5 lead in the first frame with a block and then finished things at 25-8 with a kill.
Dreisbach punched the ball off Liberty blockers to set the Trojans up at 24-16 in the second set, before the Hurricanes closed it with an error.
“We were playing really good defense and we were controlling the ball. (Setter) Jackie (Malitzki) was positioning the ball really well, so our hitters were able to take the swings that they were working on at the areas that we wanted to attack,” Parkland coach Mike Krause said. “The first contact was very consistent. We were serving pretty well, too. I think that took (Liberty) out of any middle or right-side attack, which gave our defense more time to react.”
Parkland, the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference champion, was in danger of dropping the third segment after consecutive points from Liberty’s Autumn Marrero and Sydney Houchens gave the Hurricanes a 24-20 advantage.
The Trojans, however, caught fire to close out the contest. Senior Lauren Ceh took over in the middle with a couple emphatic kills and blocks, and freshman Scarlett Jago added a pair of aces.
“They knew that some of the points that they were giving up were on our side of the net, that we controlled,” Krause said. “... We practice to stay aggressive and keep playing. There's no clock; you have to accomplish the goal … Lauren, in that third set, had two real big swings and a big block. That's what seniors do – and the other kids follow along.”
Senior Cat Farole ended the evening with another ace to make it 27-25.
“The mentality was just to stay calm and relaxed, and stay together as a team,” Brunnabend said. “It's really important; I think that's the strongest thing that we've done throughout the season: staying together, staying in the game and focusing on each point.”
Parkland, which has a youthful roster, was in the unfamiliar position of being near the back end of the Top 10 rankings at the beginning and midway point of the season.
Brunnabend indicated that it was a different experience for the Trojans, who were trying to battle low outside expectations, rather than dealing with the familiar pressure of being the area favorite.
“It means a lot to us,” the junior said of reaching the D-11 final and clinching a state berth. “A lot of people doubted us coming into the season and we really wanted to prove them wrong. We had that on our backs. Usually, we have pressure, being Parkland.”
Krause credited his seniors – Farole, Ceh and Amber Resendez, who returned from injury on Tuesday – for their mentorship.
“It says something about our seniors, their leadership and the kids' willingness to get better. There are no egos out there,” the coach said. “The seniors didn't put any pressure on (the younger players) because they experienced a lot of success when they were younger. They just had the kids keep plugging away.”
And now the Trojans, both young and old, are creating their own success.