East Penn Press

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Hornets set for annual swim rivalry

Thursday, February 15, 2018 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press in Sports

Before going into its annual showdown with Parkland on Thursday, there was one piece of business that the Emmaus swimming and diving team had to take care of before facing its ultimate rivals.

A rescheduled meet against Liberty was moved to Emmaus because of ventilation issues at the Liberty pool.

Prior to Monday’s meet, Liberty, Emmaus and Parkland all had 10-0 marks in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, but Emmaus put a blemish on the Hurricanes’ season with a 100-84 win to send the Hornets into the meet with Parkland looking for an EPC championship.

On the girls side, a logjam still exists, with Emmaus, Parkland and Nazareth all holding 10-0 conference records. The Hornets downed Liberty 100-94 to win Monday’s meet.

It’s not unusual for both Emmaus and Parkland to come into their final meet of the season with undefeated records.

The meet could just about be deemed the EPC championship, because more often than not it decides the conference champion.

The rivalry has generally been a split decision over the past few years, with Emmaus garnering the boys title, while Parkland takes home the girls trophy. Much of this year’s meet will come down to depth, which gives the Hornets the key on the boys side but may favor Parkland on the girls side.

“Everybody has seen all year that our boys team is deep and everyone in the area has seen that and knows that,” said coach Tim O’Connor. “It comes down to depth and our boys have had competition from each other all season, because we have a number of kids that are pushing for spots.

“That makes a difference and it could be the difference against Parkland.”

The girls side is going to be closer for Emmaus, but O’Connor believes that his girls are good at doing little things like beating out a competitor even if it’s not for the top spot, to gain points for the team.

While Parkland may have the edge in depth among the girls, O’Connor likes what he’s seen from his swimmers and believes they have a good shot at finishing the season as the only EPC team without a conference loss.

“Their top line is just a little bit ahead of our top line,” said O’Connor. “We might go four really good [swimmers] at the top and they go six and seven, so it’s going to come down to all of those little places. Right now, they’re obviously a stronger team, but we can be successful because we work hard and our girls really want this.”

One area that could be a tipping point is in diving. While Emmaus has become a much more competitive team in diving, Parkland still dominates. In the midseason EPC meet, Emmaus’ Brendan McCourt took the top spot, but in the recent EPC Diving Championship, Parkland took three out of the top four spots.

“Again, it’s the depth,” said out O’Connor. “We have Jess [Hurlburt] and Brendan, but they have three or four Jesses and Brendans.”

While the EPC trophies may be great for bragging rights, both teams will tell you that the meet is more of an opening act for the postseason, with the district swim meet scheduled for March 2-3.

“[Parkland head coach Rob Robitaille] and I always love this meet, because it sets us up for districts and then it’s about representing District 11 well in states and letting everybody know how strong this district is,” said O’Connor. “I’m looking forward to it.”