Posted/Updated: 12/15/2022 7:50:32 AM

Girls volleyball honors: Parkland’s Elena Pursell is Morning Call’s Player of the Year

By Keith Groller
The Morning Call

"I had 10 net violations in that first game," she said.

Suffice it to say, Pursell’s progress from that 2019 debut was impressive.

As a senior this fall at Parkland, she had 324 kills, hitting .433 — the highest hitting percentage in Pennsylvania among 4A schools. She had, 88 blocks, 35 aces and helped to lead the team to a 24-1 record which included the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and District 11 championships. The team was unbeaten until losing to Garnet Valley in the state semis.

Thanks in part to Pursell, Parkland also won the Parkland Invitational and the Little Lions Invitational Tournament at State College.

In a year that featured numerous quality teams and players in Lehigh Valley girls volleyball, she is a deserving choice as The Morning Call’s Girls Volleyball Player of the Year.

What made the 6-foot-1 senior the latest in a long line of special players at Parkland?

"Humility No. 1, work-ethic No. 2, great teammate No. 3 and the desire to be better every day would be No. 4," said Trojans coach Mike Krause. "She lived that. She came here as a freshman and was a good observer of how to get better. She worked in the gym, she worked in the weight room. She encouraged those around her to get better as well and she’s the type of individual who was always about doing what was best for the team. Individual accolades were never a priority for her. It was always team success first."

Her accolades this season include being an all-state selection and a District 11 4A MVP. She was also a first-team EPC all-star and the EPC’s scholar-athlete in the sport. She was also a MaxPreps Player of the Week and a VolleyballMag Dream Team of the Week selection.

Barring a change of heart, she will not play college volleyball. Instead, she is concentrating on her academics with Boston College, Emory and Penn State among the possibilities. She wants to become a physician’s assistant.

If 2022 was her final organized volleyball experience, she saved the best for last.

"She’s versatile, and we used her as a server and a defender in that position," Krause said. "She blocked and could score from anywhere. She improved her range of attacks."

Even though she spent several weeks each of the past two summers in Germany where she has family, she never stopped training and trying to stay in the best shape.

"Some of my skills got a little rusty," she said. "It took a while to come back, and it made me work a little harder."

Pursell is proud of the improvement she made throughout her Parkland career.

"I improved my blocking and in my confidence level," she said. "When I became more sure of myself as a player I started hitting harder and I caught the ball more and I was louder and I made our opponents worry more about me as a hitter. I caught their attention and was seen as more of a weapon."

Pursell said former Parkland player and assistant coach Kelly Robertson was her role model. A decade earlier in 2012 Robertson was the Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year and an All-American selection in addition to being the Lehigh Valley Conference and Morning Call player of the year and went on to play at Penn State and James Madison.

"She has been my idol and I’m a visual learner so I learned a lot just by watching her," Pursell said. "I would talk to her on the court and watch her movement, her assertiveness and everything about her impressed me. She would come in a lot during the postseason to work with us and she would help me with my slides and give me the best blocking advice in game scenarios."

Pursell is a member of the National Honor Society and a top-notch student who has earned outstanding grades despite the demands of her volleyball career.

"My parents always instilled me that academics come first," she said. "So when I come home from volleyball or have a period in between school and volleyball, I would get my homework done right away. I always based my academic success on my volleyball success. If I wasn’t performing well in the classroom, I would be extra hard on myself on the volleyball court and wouldn’t play as well. So I’ve tried to balance it all out."

She has the traits to become a physician’s assistant with the first part being her concern for others.

"I want to help others and I’ve noticed that more this year as a senior especially with the freshmen coming into the program and having so many middle schoolers come to our games," she said. "I want to be an inspiration for them and help them if they have any questions. I wanted to be someone welcoming, someone they didn’t fear. I wanted them to come to me if they had any questions. I wanted to be like a big sister to them."

Pursell, who has an older and younger brother, will always consider herself part of Trojans volleyball. She attended St. Thomas More through eighth grade, but said she always wanted to play volleyball at Parkland.

Now that the season has been over for almost a month, Pursell said she misses her teammates and the routine of the volleyball season.

"Now that it’s just school, I miss volleyball," she said. "I was just so honored to play here. Every workout was special, every game was special, every trip was special. I was so excited to come into the gym every day and the love and support from everyone made it all worth it. Just walking into the gym, I get reminiscent and I have a lot of good memories from being in here. I have no regrets except maybe that last loss that ended our season. But we worked so hard and gave it our all."

Asked what she would like to be remembered for, Pursell said: "A nice, hard-working player but also an inspirational leader because I wanted to lead by example. I didn’t want to intimidate anyone. I just wanted to inspire."

The 2022 Morning All-Area Team

Player of Year

Elena Pursell Sr. MH, Parkland

First Team

Sydney Houchens, Sr., OH, Liberty

Scarlett Jago, Sr., Libero, Parkland

Courtney Shire, Sr., Libero, Liberty

Lora Flynn, Jr. Setter, Liberty

Maggie Smith, Jr, Setter, Parkland

Ava Adamson, Sr. OH, Parkland

Second Team

Jody Hewitt, Sr, OH, Beth. Catholic

Abby Schweitzer, Sr., OH, Emmaus

Bailey Corrigan, So., OH, Liberty

Alice Frank, Sr., Setter, Beth. Cath.

Lyla Arfanella, Sr., OH, Nazareth

Payton Reuber, Sr., MH, Northampton

Honorable Mention

Kyla Rodriguez, Sr., MH, Beth. Cath.

Hannah Horvath Sr., Libero, Emmaus

Carly Campbell, Jr. S/MH, Notre Dame

Anna Quinn, So., OH, Allentown Central Catholic

Molly Hughes, Sr., Setter, Northampton

Breelyn Bender, Jr., MB, Nazareth

Olivia Keckler, Jr., S/OH, Easton

Lexi Womack, Jr., OH, Pleasant Valley

Morgan Hughes, Sr., Libero, Northampton

Alivia Kipp, Sr., OH, Poc. Mtn. West

Sam Mikulski, Jr., Libero Freedom

Avery Tatasciore, Sr., OH, Southern Lehigh

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