Posted/Updated: 5/10/2024 2:25:44 PM

Resilient Whitehall boys volleyball finishes Emmaus in 60-point 4th set during EPC semis

Published: May. 09, 2024, 11:16 p.m.

By Kyle Craig | For

Whitehall High School's boys volleyball team passed a couple gut checks on Thursday night.

The first came after a lackluster opening set, and the second arose as the Zephyrs battled Emmaus in a seemingly endless fourth frame.

Ultimately, Whitehall was up to both challenges.

The third-seeded Zephyrs knocked off second-seeded Emmaus 17-25, 25-18, 25-19, 31-29 in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference semifinals at Allen's Sewards Gymnasium. They advance to meet top-seeded Parkland, which swept Liberty, in the conference final 6 p.m. Wednesday at Allen.

Back-to-back kills by senior Michael Rabih and an ace from Jack Kocher forced match point for Whitehall at 24-23 in the fourth set. A block from Emmaus junior Colin Holden, kept the Green Hornets alive, however.

Emmaus (15-2) then came within a point of forcing a fifth frame on four different occasions, taking the lead at 26-25, 27-26, 28-27 and 29-28 off three points from senior Jametric Harris and a kill from junior Lucas Mondin.

"It was back-and-forth for a while, but we just knew if we kept playing like we knew how to play, we were going to win," said Kocher, a senior outside hitter.

Kocher pushed Whitehall (16-3) ahead 30-29. Emmaus was penalized for a back-row attack to end the match.

The semifinal seemed destined for five sets when kills by Holden, sophomore Ben Skekel and Mondin pushed Emmaus ahead 13-8 in the fourth. Whitehall chipped away at the lead before Rabih and Kocher stuffed the Hornets at the net for consecutive points to tie the score at 20-20.

"This game is a game of momentum more than any other sport. We just told them, 'You've got to go; we've got to keep going; you've got to push.' And we did," Whitehall coach George Cowitch said. "We got them to 20-20. Then, it went to extras, and we ran out of subs. That's resiliency. Guys were able to push through. I'm happy for that."

Whitehall, which was swept by Emmaus in its EPC opener in March, stumbled out of the gate as Holden's blocking sparked a 7-1 streak that put the Hornets ahead 17-11 in the first. Mondin sealed the set with a kill at 25-17.

The Zephyrs had to regroup.

"I just got in the huddle and said, 'That's not who we are. That's not Whitehall volleyball. We're tough. We play tough volleyball.' We just didn't do that in Set 1," Cowitch said.

"That wasn't us out there," Kocher agreed.

Whitehall looked like a different team in the second set. Kocher sandwiched a kill and an ace around a block by senior Omarion Tembo to get the Zephyrs on the board with a 25-18 win.

Tembo gave Whitehall its largest lead of the third set, 20-8, with a kill. Emmaus rallied and closed the gap to 22-17 after a score from Skekel. Kocher, however, shut the door with a kill at 25-19.

Kocher paced the Zephyrs with 20 kills to go with 16 digs. Tembo had 15 kills, and junior Brandon Bird added 24 digs. Sophomore Andrew Sodl and freshman Kole Moyer tallied 23 and 20 assists, respectively.

Whitehall won Thursday's semifinal without major contributions from EPC first-team all-star Ethan Ringenberger, an outside hitter who only served a few times while nursing an injury. He's been sidelined for about a week.

"Guys realized that they had to step up," Cowitch said. "Sometimes when you have really good players, they become safety blankets for other guys. I think it really helped us push guys to know that they have to do more. When we get [Ringenberger] back, that can be really good for us."

Whitehall is appearing in a conference final for the first time since 2019. The Zephyrs handed Parkland (15-3) its only EPC loss during a five-set slugfest on April 9.

"It means a lot to play for a championship," Kocher said.

"We're going to have to limit errors," Cowitch added. "I think we errored the most out of any set we've played all year in Set 1. We've been pretty clean all year ... If we just play our style of volleyball, I think we'll be fine in the championship."

Kyle Craig may be reached at

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