Every January, Bucknell University plays host to some of the top high school swimming and diving teams for the New Year’s Challenge. As usual, Emmaus was invited to this year’s event and came home with strong finishes for both the boys and girls teams. The boys team placed third behind Wilson West Lawn and North Allegheny, while the girls placed fifth in the team standings, with Wilson West Lawn grabbing first on the girls side as well.
The Emmaus swimming and diving roster consists of 55 student athletes and 32 are freshmen or sophomores, with 20 of that group being freshmen.
With the success of the Emmaus Aquatic Club and the input from some new varsity coaches this season, the younger swimmers are contributing early to the success of the program even as they’re still acclimating themselves to the rigors of Hornet head coach Tim O’Connor’s program.
Years from now when Emmaus coach Kelsey Gallagher looks back on her first win as a head coach, it will probably look much better than it did when it happened this past Saturday.
The Hornets downed Pocono Mountain West 55-49 in a game that consisted of 55 fouls leading to 73 foul shots, but in the end, it was a win and Gallagher and her team will take it.
The two teams also had trouble handling the ball, leading to 56 turnovers in the game.
For the first time this season, Emmaus swimmers got to compete against other schools rather than just against themselves. The annual Cedar Crest Invitational, a joint effort of Emmaus and Parkland high school swim teams, was held with eight girls teams and nine boys teams competing.
The Hornet boys team came out with a first-place finish, scoring 648 points compared to 318 for Southern Lehigh and 298 for Parkland. Other local boys teams included Nazareth (5th, 192 points), Freedom (7th, 110 points) and Central Catholic (9th, 52 points).
As the new coach of the Emmaus girls basketball team, Kelsey Gallagher brought an up-tempo offense and a man-to-man defense to the team. While the changes have been difficult to adapt to, the players have bought into the system and have already come a long way since Gallagher’s arrival.
In their season opener, Emmaus (0-0 EPC, 0-1 overall) took on Wilson-West Lawn and put together a tough performance that saw them fall behind by as many as 15 points before mounting a late rally that came up short in a 43-37 loss.
In the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Goldilocks had to search around for porridge, a chair and a bed until she found the one that was just right. For senior basketball player, Bri Hart, her search through three different coaches in her four seasons appears to be ending with the one that’s just right.
A lot has changed since Kelsey Gallagher was named the new head coach of the Lady Hornets this past July. The team had a good showing in both the summer league and its own EHS Fall Classic, and the system and style of play have both been completely overhauled.
Swimming coach Tim O’Connor can’t quite put his finger on the reason, but there just are fewer girls coming out for the swim team than there have been in the past.
While the boys team is well stocked, the girls side has much less depth and a senior class of just one. The lack of depth has made O’Connor a little more inventive when it comes to putting things together.
One of the things that O’Connor is stressing is taking his swimmers – boys and girls – out of their comfort zones.
Last season, the Northwestern girls team featured a senior class of one: Paige Stitzel. The result was a lot of younger players getting opportunities for quality minutes, giving the Lady Tigers plenty of experience coming into the 2017-2018 season.
After having that one-player senior class last year, head coach Chris Deutsch has six seniors on this year’s roster. The experience of the seniors and the development of the underclassmen from last season are good, but adding a couple of impressive freshmen to this year’s team gives depth and offers Deutsch plenty of options.
Talking with Emmaus swimming coach Tim O’Connor recently, he actually used the term “rebuilding.” Keep in mind that the term has a different meaning when you talk about Emmaus swimming than it usually does, especially on the boys side of the team, which has 10 straight District 11 team championships to its credit.
Once again this year, Emmaus is going to be one of the local powerhouses on both the boys and girls sides of the sport.
Beyond that is where the rebuild comes in.
The recent Fall Classic at Emmaus High School was a success in raising money for the American Cancer Society. This year’s edition featured 11 girls varsity basketball teams and four girls JV teams who battled each other over two days.
For the weekend, the event, which is organized and run by the Three-Point Club at Emmaus, raised $500 for the American Cancer Society.
Both the Emmaus varsity and JV teams were successful on the court as well, with both teams finishing with a 4-1 record.