East Penn Press

Friday, November 16, 2018
James Haag is this year’s East Penn Press Male Athlete of the Year. Copyright - Don Herb 2017_ James Haag is this year’s East Penn Press Male Athlete of the Year. Copyright - Don Herb 2017_

Haag excelled in both of his sports

Wednesday, August 1, 2018 by CJ HEMERLY Special to the Press in Sports

Recent Emmaus High School graduate James Haag had a decision to make. Yes, like all upperclassmen, he had to choose which college he would attend. But to go along with that, he also had to pick which sport he would play on the next level, eliminating one of two in which he starred at Emmaus.

Haag was a member of Emmaus’ soccer team in the fall and the volleyball team in the spring. He excelled at both and enjoyed competing in each one.

After a successful 2017-18 senior campaign, Haag was voted as the East Penn Press Male Athlete of the Year.

With the types of schools pursuing him, playing two sports would be a difficult task. After committing to attend New York University in the fall, Haag accepted a scholarship to remain on the court and play volleyball.

“I considered a few other schools such as Villanova and Northeastern, and I was also recruited by MIT,” said Haag. “I decided to go to NYU because of its prestigious Stern School of Business, its excellent location in Manhattan, very near the financial district, its internship opportunities, and the ability for me to continue my volleyball career.

“Although I love playing both sports, I found that volleyball is a sport that is hard to play if you are not playing with high level teammates and opponents, and felt that I could be happy ending my official soccer career of 16 years and simply play for fun with friends. I also found volleyball to be a less stressful game where I seemed to have more fun, and I would be able to bring back my improved skills to compete in outdoor tournaments.”

The Green Hornets (23-1 overall) won both the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and District 11 Class 3A titles for the second straight season, and Haag was a big reason why, especially as a senior. He earned league MVP honors with a powerful swing as an opposite hitter on a team that reached the PIAA semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Hempfield.

“It felt great to be able to be one of the leaders on the volleyball team,” Haag said. “We have a phenomenal program. [Emmaus’ coaching staff does] a great job developing the players, preparing the JV guys for varsity, and getting the varsity players to play at a high level. For the past two years we have been a dominant force throughout the Lehigh Valley and even the state, winning two district and league titles and reaching the state semifinals twice in a row.

“It was tough ending the season on a loss and not being able to be crowned state champions, but both years we lost to very worthy opponents and had no reason to hang our heads. I’m very excited to see how the team does next year, as I expect great things to come out of that season as well.”

Haag had 285 kills as a senior at a rate of 2.69 per set. His kill percentage was 43.4 percent. He also had 28 blocks and 239 digs.

Haag wasn’t just garnering medals around his neck during the volleyball season.

Last fall, the Emmaus boys soccer team also played in the league and district championship games. They came up just short in both to a talented Parkland team, but finished the season 18-5-1, and the appearance in the district final was the seventh in a row, the longest streak in modern era of Lehigh Valley soccer.

Haag scored two goals and assisted on two others last season, finishing with six goals and four assists for his varsity soccer career.

“Making the league and district finals this year was a great experience,” said Haag. “When you play for such a great program like Emmaus, you always expect the team to be good and to come back strong each year. After losing some key players from the district title run the previous year, we were able to come back strong and compete with the best teams around the Lehigh Valley. [The Emmaus varsity coaching staff does] a great job preparing us for the season and for each game, and it shows in the results we are able to get, especially in the postseason. It definitely was tough to come up short in those two championships, but we truly gave it everything we had and were still proud of the effort we put forth.”

Haag also excelled in the classroom, earning the scholar-athlete award on the soccer team.

“I found that Emmaus High School was the perfect place for me to grow as a student, an athlete, and a person,” said Haag. “Academically, it has almost any class you can ask for as well as numerous AP level courses. Athletically, Emmaus is one of the most competitive schools in the area, and I have had the opportunities to learn from outstanding coaches while winning district and league championships.

“Leaving the high school, I believe I am a much more well-rounded and complete person than when I entered. I am truly grateful for all the opportunities that Emmaus has given me, and I will cherish the memories I have made with my peers.”