|Posted/Updated: 4/17/2023 10:12:44 AM|
Lehigh Valley boys volleyball: Teams, players to watch as the season reaches the halfway point
You can look at where we are in the high school volleyball season one of two ways. One is to realize that we just reached the halfway point of the season. But tilt your head a little the other way and you see that there are only three weeks left in the regular season.
Either way, you look at it, the battle for postseason positioning is tight as teams in both 2A and 3A look to climb to the top. Let’s look at the races, who may rise to the top rung, and why.
Three teams to watch
After winning the EPC championship, reaching the District 11 finals, and advancing as far as the quarterfinals at states, the Trojans have reloaded and are again making their mark with a 7-0 record. Even with losing three All-EPC players from last season, six returning players were still on the court during the PIAA quarterfinal game against Central Dauphin. Parkland downed state semifinalist Pennridge in four sets early in the season, setting the tone for the rest of the way, which has seen them drop just two sets in their seven matches.
All-EPC outside hitter Chase Robbins leads a talented group that also includes setters Isaac Uthappan and Will Stiles, middle hitter Brady Hayward and defensive specialists Ahmad Jaffer, Luke Smith, and Kumayl Soonasra.
Last season Emmaus finished 14-5 overall but came away a little disappointed with their postseason play as the Hornets failed to win a league or district championship. This season, they have put all of that behind them and are focused on 2023. With wins in the Red Rover Invitational and the Bobcat Invitational, Emmaus has remained undefeated with an 8-0 mark. To win the Bobcat tournament, the Hornets knocked off the second-ranked team in the state in Cumberland Valley.
The Green Hornets’ roster is full of players who can be used at multiple positions, which allows for flexibility and depth. Setter Cooper Henseler, outside hitters Johnny Cannone and Logan Dougherty, opposite hitter Lord Henry, Libero Zach Baus, and defensive specialist Brian Cobb are the team leaders.
The Spartans are one of the deeper teams in the area after losing just one player to graduation from a team that finished 17-6 last season and finished second in District 11, 1, and 2 subregional. The Spartans(6-1) have already beaten tough Central Bucks East and Neshaminy teams and their only loss so far was against Parkland.
Trey West, a 6-2 senior outside hitter, was All-State last season with 277 kills, 46 aces, and 24 blocks. Fellow seniors Quincy Brunner, Cohen Resch, and Reuben Smith, juniors Evan Dittus, Hansen Fan, Sam Magallanes, and Jack Welsh give Southern Lehigh plenty of experience and that experience and leadership has helped the Spartans to get to the top of the 2A standings.
Others to watch: Nazareth (9-1), Liberty (7-1), and Pocono Mountain East (6-3).
Three players to watch
Chase Robbins, senior, Parkland
Robbins came into the season as a member of the coveted AVCA All-American Watch List and has not disappointed. The senior has 58 kills and four aces this season, both of which lead the team. With a commitment to Juniata set for next season, Robbins is looking to help move Parkland over the top with EPC and district championships after they fell short in 2022. The good news is that there is plenty of talent to surround Robbins, including sophomore Josh Nation (32 kills) and junior Luke Smith (23 kills, 15 blocks, and 14 digs).
Adam Mittl, junior, Liberty
The Hurricanes have four players with double-digit kills and feature Matt Gonzalez (124 digs) and Cristian Matos (185 assists). Mittl has a big lead on the team in kills with 87, while also adding 42 digs. Mittl made the team as a freshman and had an immediate impact, but this season has taken his play to the next level. He has been on the radar of many national ranking systems. Before the season he was picked as an AVCA Boys Volleyball High Riser and is designated as one of the top players in the country. Liberty went through a 5-11 season in 2022 and is back in the mix thanks in no small part to Mittl.
Logan Dougherty, senior, Emmaus
Simply put, the Hornets are stacked with talent and are a fun team to watch. Helping to lead the way with a team-leading 168 kills to go along with 11 blocks is Dougherty, who also has 53 digs on the season. The Green Hornets’ depth gives Dougherty a lot of help, but his 2023 numbers and the contribution that he makes to the team’s success cannot be minimized. The shining moment of the season for Dougherty came with a 17-kill effort in a come-from-behind win over Gov. Mifflin.
Chuck Hixson is a freelance writer.