Posted/Updated: 4/18/2023 3:57:33 PM

High school volleyball: Southern Lehigh serves up sweep of short-handed Easton

The Easton bus to Southern Lehigh High School was not as full as it normally would have been.

The Red Rovers were without three starters for assorted reasons, leaving the ones who were on the bus to battle one of the better teams around. The Spartans took control early and showed no mercy as they won in three sets, downing Easton 25-13, 25-14, 25-17.

In the first set, Southern Lehigh (7-1) jumped to an early lead and kept the Rovers (5-6) from getting any momentum along the way. The Spartans used aggressive serves and were able to work some free ball plays to continue building a larger lead.

"Our serves early in the season were good but were not overly aggressive serves. We have been working a lot on being more aggressive on serves, so that was good tonight," said Southern Lehigh coach Don West Jr. "We were able to do a lot of good things and get a lot of people in and give everybody some work. When we have some tighter games, we don't have a chance to get everybody in, so that was important tonight."

Southern Lehigh opened the second set with four straight points thanks to two early kills by senior Cohen Resch. But again, every time that Easton would look to build some momentum, the Spartans would come back to dash their hopes. Up 4-3, Southern Lehigh got a block from Noah Jellison and made it 6-3 and eventually found themselves up 7-6 when Hansen Fan, a junior, had a kill to break serve.

The Spartans pulled away when they scored five straight points with Fan getting a kill and a block to make it 18-10 before Easton broke serve with a kill by Nicolas Plata Rincon. Up 23-14, Southern Lehigh junior Owen Cobb recorded two aces to give the set to the Spartans.

"We played defense pretty well and I think our service team was pretty good, and usually when we get a good pass off a service and are able to set everyone, that really contributes to our offense," said Fan.

Easton played its best set of the match in the third, but the Roves' only lead came at 1-0. The match stayed close until kills by Ethan Poirot and Joseph O'Rourke had the Spartans up 18-11 before Trey West picked up back-to-back kills. From there the two sides went back and forth before the Spartans put the match away.

"We're playing really well right now and we have finally hit our stride and it's good to hit it now in the middle of the season when we have a bunch of tough games coming up. We just look at every game as being important to us," said Southern Lehigh senior Quincy Brunner.

The next two weeks are the toughest and most important stretch of the season for Southern Lehigh as it continues to fight for the top ranking in districts. This week the Spartans play Notre Dame-Green Pond (1-10) and Pocono Mountain West (0-8) and then face four tough EPC teams in Nazareth (10-1), Northampton (4-5), Emmaus (9-0), and Liberty (7-1).

Right now, the Spartans are the top seed in District 11 2A with Pocono Mountain East (6-3) hanging close behind.

"Even before the schedule hits the tough point, we play an athletic Notre Dame team and even though they are a young program they have a lot of good athletes on that team and then play Pocono Mountain West the next day," said West. "Nazareth is a big one that the boys have been looking forward to. It's not a rivalry or anything but we had a heck of a game last year that we lost 15-13 in five sets at Nazareth and our guys have been wanting a chance to see them again."

After that stretch concludes, Southern Lehigh will play Liberty as the regular season heads into the home stretch. Emmaus and Nazareth have already clinched 3A district spots with Liberty on the verge of securing a spot. Northampton needs some big wins down the stretch to make districts and it will be looking to knock off the Spartans.

"We are 100% ready for that (the stretch of games)," said Brunner. "They're good EPC teams and we respect them, but we are a team that competes with them, and we never shy away from any competition, no matter who it is, so we are ready to play them."

Chuck Hixson is a freelance writer.

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