Posted/Updated: 5/16/2024 8:26:55 AM

Parkland boys volleyball overwhelms Whitehall early, rolls to 3rd straight EPC crown

By Corky Blake | For
Parkland High School senior setter Will Stiles said he's been tinkering with his serve recently.

"I've been trying to change my serve," said Stiles, a Misericordia University recruit. "Instead of it going up and down, I'm trying to go deeper with it."

Whatever Stiles is doing, it sure is working. The left-hander incredibly served 14 straight points in the early going of Game 1, and that set the tone for Parkland's 25-9, 25-18, 25-15 victory over Whitehall in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference championship match Wednesday night at Allen's Sewards Gym.

The win avenged the Trojans' lone EPC loss – a five-setter to the Zephyrs on April 9 – and secured their third straight conference title.

"I don't remember anyone ever doing that in my 18 years of coaching," said Whitehall coach George Cowitch of Stiles' service run. "What can you say? You just tell the kids to keep playing."

After senior middle hitter Luke Smith's kill opened the scoring, Stiles jogged back to the service line and went to work, collecting four aces to complement the fierce hitting up front of Smith, senior opposite Owen Rodgers and junior outside hitter Josh Nation.

Cowitch called two timeouts during the 15-0 opening spree. The second one stopped the bleeding when top-seeded Parkland, perfect to that point, finally hit a ball out of bounds.

"I've never come close to doing that before, maybe at the club level," Stiles said of his sterling serving streak. "We played them before, and I watched a good amount of film and knew their weaker spots. Tonight, we played with a lot of energy and heart. They're a rival and we didn't like losing to them."

Veteran Parkland coach Scott Trumbauer was impressed by his team's start against the third-seeded Zephyrs.

"It was a lack of (service) errors," Trumbauer said. "All season, we'd end (service) runs after five or six with a service error. Tonight, we kept the ball in play. I told them before the match that when we played them the first time we statistically were better in every category except aces."

So, the message was simple: Put the ball in play, keep it in play and then smash it through Whitehall's defense. Rodgers, Nation, Smith and senior outside hitter Alex Wilby combined for 14 kills in Game 1, and Smith registered a pair of blocks.

"A lot of it, honestly, was getting revenge on them," Rodgers said. "That first one didn't go our way. Tonight, our blocking was better. Obviously, we knew Jack (Kocher) was a good hitter for them. We played to take away their strengths and did our job."

Game 2 was more indicative of how competitive the match was expected to be. Parkland's service accuracy went dormant as Whitehall's first three points came on errant Trojan serves.

A kill by junior middle hitter Peter Tabarani gave Whitehall a 16-15 lead before the defending PIAA Class 3A champion went on a 6-0 spurt behind three kills from Nation and a pair of combo blocks from Smith and Rodgers. Another block by senior Brady Hayward and Rodgers closed the 25-18 triumph.

Not surprisingly, Stiles was serving during the run.

"We couldn't get out of a rotation there," Cowitch said.

"We did a great job on defense, and a lot of times when I was expecting the kill I was getting a great set," said Nation, who collected eight kills in Game 2.

Parkland surrendered the first point of Game 3 but kills from Nation and Rodgers sent the Trojans into the lead for good. Nation's emphatic kill fittingly took care of match point in the 25-15 victory.

"The best part of our team is that on any given night someone different can step up for us," Rodgers said.

Parkland will be the top seed in the seven-team District 11 Class 3A tournament that will begin next week and will receive a bye into the semifinals. Whitehall is expected to be the third seed.

"What's really weird is we were playing scared tonight and that shouldn't happen, because we go to all the big tournaments in the state and play the best teams around," Cowitch said. "We'll go back to training for districts, and we'll fix it. Hopefully, we'll get another chance at playing them (Parkland), but it's not easy to get to this point."

Corky Blake can be reached at

Questions/Comments? Contact Scott Trumbauer