Hornets fall in PIAA quarterfinal
The Emmaus boys volleyball team was one of the last eight Class AAA teams still alive in the state playoffs heading into last weekend.
But the Hornets' season came to end Saturday afternoon at Mechanicsburg Area High School as they lost to Hempfield, the third place team out of District 3, in four games (25-16, 25-18,23-25, 25-13).
"They fought hard," said Emmaus head coach Ken Dunkle. "I think they had a good match. We had too many unforced errors. That's not going to help you out against a team like Hempfield. They're a pretty solid team. I think they can probably go another round or two."
The Black Knights moved on to face Parkland in this week's state semifinals.
Emmaus' season comes to an end after losing to just two teams in matches outside of tournaments. The Hornets went 13-1 in the regular season with their only loss coming to Parkland. They also fell to the Trojans in the league and district title games.
"I'm happy," Dunkle said of his team's season. "We got to the state quarterfinals. That's the best we've done in a while."
The Hornets won a first-round game last week, beating District 12 champ Washington High School 25-22, 25-17, 25-21.
Against Hempfield, Emmaus opened a 5-2 lead in the first game before the Knights came roaring back to go ahead 8-6 and eventually win the game by nine points.
In the second game, the Hornets fell behind 4-0 before they changed strategy and started to tap the ball into open spots instead of trying to pound it through the Hempfield blockers.
Kills by Robert Haag, Carson Landis, Austin Brauchle and Patrick Bryan got the Hornets back in the game at 8-8. But Hempfield adjusted, took the lead and didn't give it up the rest of the way in game two.
"I think when we get behind we tend to go into panic mode," said Dunkle. "We want to crush the ball and put it down instead of playing smart."
With their season on the line in game three, the Hornets played their best game of the match. Despite Bryan, the East Penn Conference Most Valuable Player, having to leave the court during a few time outs because of an upset stomach, Emmaus led most of the game and never fell behind by more than two points en route to the win in game three.
But Hempfield got momentum back and made sure the match didn't go to a fifth game with a 25-13 win in game four.
The Hornets end the season with runner-up finishes in leagues and districts as well as an appearance in the state quarterfinals.
It was a successful season for a group that includes several seniors who played their last high school match on Saturday.
This year's senior class includes Bryan, Ethan Maurer, Haag, Brauchle, setter Greg Lind, John Lang, Victor Morales and Colin Dunkle.
"It's definitely going to be tough to lose some of the big guns we have," said Dunkle. "We have some good guys coming up. Our one middle, Carson is a sophomore. It's going to be sad to lose [the seniors] but it seems every year somebody steps up and takes the spots you didn't think you were going to be able to fill."