Posted/Updated: 5/29/2024 11:25:11 AM

Parkland boys volleyball prevails in battle with Whitehall for 2nd straight district title

All the plays added up for the Parkland High School boys volleyball team in its latest battle with Whitehall.

The final moment of the top-seeded Trojans’ 21-25, 26-24, 25-15, 27-25 triumph over the third-seeded Zephyrs in the District 11 Class 3A final at Catasauqua High School was unmissable.

6-foot-3 Owen Rodgers elevated for a thunderous block, prompting the Parkland fans to erupt in celebration of the program’s second straight D-11 crown. It was a satisfying conclusion for the senior, who had his hands full with Whitehall’s talented hitters.

“It meant more because I was getting challenged all day by Ethan (Ringenberger) and Jack (Kocher),” Rodgers said. “A lot of credit to those guys; they were killing me. I was grateful to get away with those one or two on them.” 

Trojans coach Scott Trumbauer saw Rodgers stick with it while the staff asked him to adjust.

“He’s a brilliant kid. He knows what he can do,” Trumbauer said. “He was able to perform in the biggest moment.”

There were other plays, however, far easier to be lost in the shuffle, compared to Rodgers’ block, but no less critical. 

With Parkland (18-3) trailing 22-20 in the fourth and final frame, the Trojans put up an errant set that looked destined to hit the floor. Junior Josh Nation hit the deck and kept the ball off the ground. The rally continued and Parkland eventually earned the point due to a double hit by Whitehall.

“It’s stuff that we work on in practice,” Nation said. “We do drills to work on emergency stuff, balls that are flying all over the place. So, that type of thing comes like second nature to all of us.”

“[Nation] was able to make that cover. You keep the ball in play and you just live to see what happens,” said Trumbauer, who also credited senior libero Ahmad Jaffer for a desperation dig earlier in the contest that could easily be overlooked.

A Parkland hitting error put Whitehall (18-5) a point away from forcing a fifth set at 24-21. 

“You have to get into situations down 24-21 to see how you respond. I don’t want to be in that situation ever, but luckily, we were able to dig out of it,” Trumbauer said. “In that timeout, we mentioned to them that last year, we in the same situation in the state semis down 24-21 (against Cumberland Valley) – and we all know what happened after that.”

Senior Alex Wilby rallied the Trojans to a tie at 24-24. A kill by Whitehall senior Jack Kocher made it 25-24 in favor of the Zephyrs. Rodgers leveled the score with a kill, combined with classmate Brady Hayward for a block and then ended the contest with his solo stuff.

“It really all comes back to practice,” Nation said. “We do a lot of high-pressure, high-intensity stuff when we can. We knew that they were going to come out firing.”

Whitehall, which was swept by Parkland in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference final, took a 19-16 advantage in the first set with a three-point spurt and maintained a lead until senior Ethan Ringenberger capped an opening win at 25-21. 

Parkland was in danger of a similar fate in Set 2 as back-to-back kills by Ringenberger pushed the Zephyrs ahead 20-17. Nation came alive for the Trojans, though, registering three kills and a block in a span of six points as the top seed pulled ahead 22-21.

Whitehall tied the second frame at 24-24 but surrendered the final two points as Parkland evened the match score, 1-1.

The third set was the only runaway of the evening. The Trojans erased an early four-point deficit and closed the segment on a nine-point run, which featured three consecutive scores from Wilby (one block and two kills).

“I’m just so proud of that kid,” Trumbauer said of Wilby. “He’s had some struggles throughout the season just with confidence in himself ... It’s been a crazy journey for him, but I’m just so proud of him.”

Both teams advance to the PIAA tournament. Whitehall will meet District 2 champion Delaware Valley on June 4.

“Credit to (Whitehall coach) George (Cowitch),” Trumbauer said. “They had them so prepared. They were touching everything. Their defense was so scrappy, but we just kept fighting. They beat a lot of teams because they wear them out. I was lucky to see that didn’t happen to us.”

Parkland will face the District 3 third-place team (Carlisle or Red Lion).

The Trojans rolled to a PIAA championship last season with a 23-0 record. It’s been a different ride this spring.

“We’ve definitely faced some adversity this year,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, we dropped a game to [Whitehall] during the season. I think we’ve gotten a lot better this year. Last year, we didn’t face much adversity. But, we’ve gotten a lot better with [adversity] and working together to get past it.”

“I’m not going to say last season was easy by any means, but a lot of things really flowed for us,” Nation said. “Now, we’re having ups and downs, and we’re doing a really good job of working through them.”

The Trojans, who feature a large cast of seniors, feel ready to defend their state crown.

“We’re really locked in lately, and we’re going to keep going,” Wilby said.

“Obviously, the goal is to have back-to-back state championships,” Rodgers said. “I wouldn’t say we played our best tonight. But, we learned a lot and that’ll help us a lot in the state playoffs.”

First, the Trojans can celebrate another addition to their trophy collection.

“Winning the district, you get to put another year up on the banner that everybody can see in the gymnasium,” Trumbauer said. “I almost say it too many times, but I want them to know that they’re making history every time they do something like this. I want them to appreciate and think about those things.”

Class 2A

Top-seeded Southern Lehigh swept second-seeded Pocono Mountain East 25-14, 25-14, 25-14 to capture its second straight District 11 Class 2A title.
 
Senior Joey O’Rourke paced the Spartans (14-6) with 12 kills and four aces. Jack Welsh, another senior, dished out 36 assists to go with six digs and three aces. 

Southern Lehigh will travel to Dock Mennonite Academy for a PIAA play-in game 6 p.m. Thursday.

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Kyle Craig may be reached at kcraig@lehighvalleylive.com.


Questions/Comments? Contact Scott Trumbauer