Posted/Updated: 7/22/2021 9:28:45 AM

Emmaus boys volleyball's McKiernan gets sendoff he always wanted with league title

By Desmond Boyle | For lehighvalleylive.com

From the first year he was a part of the Emmaus boys volleyball team, Kyle McKiernan knew what he wanted to achieve before he graduated.

As a freshman on the junior varsity squad, McKiernan watched the Green Hornets win both league and district gold before reaching the PIAA Class 3A semifinals in 2018.his spring, McKiernan helped Emmaus emulate that team's achievements with an Eastern Pennsylvania Conference title.

"Ever since I was a freshman, I wanted to win EPCs as a senior. That was my goal all throughout high school. I really wanted to prove that we could be as good as our 2018 team," McKiernan said. "To be a part of that Emmaus team this year was just special to me because I got to play with all my friends, and we came out and won a title."

For leading the Hornets (24-4) to their first championship since 2018 with more than 300 kills, McKiernan is the lehighvalleylive.com Boys Volleyball Player of the Year. McKiernan is the first Emmaus player to win the award since Cameron Parsons in 2018.

With his junior year wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, McKiernan had just one season to make his mark at outside hitter.

Despite not playing varsity volleyball prior to this year, McKiernan quickly built a rhythm with his fellow Hornets standouts senior outside hitter Nick Blose, senior setter Gannon DeFrain and junior middle hitter Noah Parker.

"I think our chemistry right from the beginning was really good. I played JV the last two years with our middle Noah Parker and I knew that he could pull blocks really well and that I'd have a cross-shot every, single time," McKiernan said. "Gannon and I are actually best friends off the court, too. He's always been my best friend. We just have that connection."

McKiernan led the way with 313 kills, 176 digs, 34 blocks and 33 aces as Emmaus built a 19-2 regular-season record.

"Kyle contributed in every facet of the game except setting. Strong serving, serve receive, back row defense and back row attack, hitting and blocking," Emmaus coach Ken Dunkle said. "Truly a well-rounded player."

The Hornets, who won 15 of those 19 regular-season games in three sets, had too many weapons for most local opposition. Blose chipped in 262 kills and DeFrain played the role of playmaker with 511 assists.

"The passing starts everything. That was always our main goal this year; we would always work on passing during our drills," McKiernan said. "Nick has been playing varsity since he was a freshman. To have that edge and that experience from him was great this year. He would always make smart decisions as well, like hitting back corners or whatever was open, and Gannon could set anything."

According to Dunkle, McKiernan's proficiency stood out as the senior had 182 more earned points than unforced errors this year.

"The next closest player was plus 56," Dunkle said. "This speaks to his importance to our success this year and what a great job he does playing within himself and doing his best to maximize scoring points for the team while minimizing points given away through errors."

The Hornets entered the EPC tournament as the third seed and faced Whitehall, one of two teams that defeated them earlier on, in the semifinals. McKiernan tallied 21 kills as Emmaus battled back to down the Zephyrs 23-25, 19-25, 25-20, 25-22, 20-18.

"When we were down two sets to none in that EPC semi game against Whitehall, I think everybody just woke up and our confidence carried to the EPC win," McKiernan said. "We were exhausted."

Unfortunately for the Hornets, they didn't have much time to regroup before they faced the only other team to hand them a loss in 2021, Parkland, the next morning for the league title. Five sets were once again required as Emmaus downed its rival 23-25, 25-21, 25-16, 21-25, 15-12.

"We knew that during the regular season (Parkland) came into our place on senior night and beat us in five," McKiernan said. "I think that kind of put us over them a little bit because we all had that edge."

McKiernan registered 19 kills, 16 digs and two blocks against the Trojans to lead Emmaus to the title.

"It felt amazing. We worked so hard for that," McKiernan said. "Especially this year, we didn't know what would happen because of COVID. The fact that we won that was unbelievable for all of us. We're all extremely grateful for it."

The Hornets came up short against Parkland in four sets in the District 11 Class 3A final, but rebounded with a 25-20, 25-11, 25-18 win in the first round of states over Delaware Valley thanks to 10 kills from McKiernan.

McKiernan saw his Emmaus career end in the state quarterfinals, but his volleyball career will continue at Elizabethtown College.

"I'm really excited. I'm really grateful for it," McKiernan said. "My main goal is to win a championship there. That's always the goal for me, always to win."

In just one varsity season with the Hornets, McKiernan was able to meet that goal.  

Desmond Boyle may be reached at dboyle@lehighvalleylive.com.


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