Hornets look to defend titles
The Emmaus boys volleyball team is coming off its most successful season in program history last year. The Hornets finished 2017 with a 39-5 overall record, Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and District 11 championships, and a spot in the PIAA Class 3A final four.
With a healthy chunk of its lineup back this year, Emmaus has the look of a repeat champion. But this year, it will not sneak up on anyone and will get every team’s best shot.
“It may sound kind of cliche, but I really don’t talk much about our opponents,” said Hornet head coach Ken Dunkle. “We have no control over them and what they do so any time we spend worrying about them takes our focus off of improving the areas we need to do.
“That being said, the coaching staff has the responsibility to understand how teams may leverage their strengths against areas they may feel we are weak and make sure the guys have the skills they need to answer. I want their focus to be on what we can do as a team to practice with purpose and improve every day.”
The Hornets will still have plenty of big shoes to fill, as four starters from last year graduated. Dunkle knows that, outside of his experienced returnees, he will need some newcomers to contribute.
“Fortunately, we have guys that are ready to step into those rolls,” Dunkle said. “Stephen Reynolds on the outside, Owen Kennedy in the middle, Tom Mazzella on the right and Harrison Dottery at libero. Stephen, Owen, and Harrison are juniors that we got some varsity reps last season to help prepare them for their elevated roles this year.
“Tom was our second right side-hitter last year, so he was all set to transition into Jake’s spot this year. Harrison probably has the biggest challenge this year stepping into [graduate Brendan Dunkle’s] position, partly because of the critical role of the libero in leading the defense and really being the first contact in the offense, but also because of how aggressively Brendan played that position. Harrison is putting in the work though and we are seeing improvement from one practice to the next. We also pulled up a sophomore middle (Noah Szankovics) and a freshman outside (Nick Blose) that we think show great promise. We will be looking to grow them as key players in the years to come and to challenge the starters this year.”
Outside of the players mentioned above, the experience and leadership will come from returning contributors in reigning EPC MVP Cam Parsons, James Haag, Matt Swanson, Sam Workman and Mitch Shoemaker.
“Last year was kind of special in that we had seven starters that pretty much from day one were playing at a high level as if it was an all senior roster,” said Ken Dunkle. “While we are not in quite the same starting position this year, we have enough of a returning foundation and talent to fill the vacancies. I’m confident that we will get to that level as the season progresses. Parkland is always a great rivalry, but I’m expecting Nazareth, and Whitehall to be tough this year as well. At the end of the day, if we focus on what we need to do as a team to play to our potential, then we’ve done all that we can do and hopefully at the end of the season we are rewarded with post season opportunities.”
Emmaus opens its 2018 regular season at home against Pocono Mountain East on Friday.