The Parkland boys’ volleyball team entered the 2021 Pennsylvania Eastern Conference tournament as the top seed but fell just short of the title after giving up a five-set thriller for compete with Emmaus in the championship.
In this year’s league title match, the Trojans used that angst as motivation and walked away with their first EPC crown since 2016.
Junior Chase Robbins delivered the game-winning kill for the Trojans (17-4), just managing to propel his shot past the Konkrete Kids block.
“It was really amazing. It was really good,” Robbins said of the game-winning kill. “All of that, the crowd, the medals, it’s a great time.”
Robbins, an EPC second-team selection, registered 21 kills and 20 assists.
“We’ve been excited for this game ever since we lost EPC’s back in 2021,” Robbins said. “It’s really amazing… Since we lost in 2021, we really wanted to win this one.”
“He is without a doubt one of the best players around,” Parkland coach Scott Trumbauer said of Robbins. “I was on his case tonight on the few mistakes he made tonight because I know he can perform at a flawless level. He played at an almost flawless level and that was really important to us.
The Trojans led 20-19 in the fourth set and, after a timeout, won five of the last six rallies thanks to four kills and a block from Robbins.
“I think we have regained our energy. We took a little break, took a break and refocused,” Robbins said.
The strong end to the EPC title stands in stark contrast to the loss to Emmaus in 2021, when the Green Hornets won three straight points to win the fifth set 15-12.
“Just being able to fight off their good run in the third set and push in the fourth set was just an honor for the guys and their mindset to want to win this, especially because we lost the game. last year,” Trumbauer said.
Parkland remained in control for most of the first and second sets with an inside blocking engagement that disrupted Northampton’s rhythm.
“We knew we had to maintain that block, especially with their midfielders, their midfielders are their strongest players. If we don’t get their crosses under control then they’re just going to run through us, but we were able to contain them and we were able to stop them,” lead hitter Adam Pursell said.
Pursell had five kills and four blocks while second center hitter Luke Smith added seven kills and four blocks.
“Just by taking that lead, we continued to stay in attack. Just non-stop, putting our exteriors, in the middle and everywhere, they didn’t know where we were going all the time. We were able to get around that block and put the ball down,” Pursell said.
The Trojans have won 9 of the last 13 rallies to close the second and take a 2-0 lead.
“You have to turn it over to Parkland. They served us short, took us out of our fast system off-reception and then started taking it on the pins and we just couldn’t stop them, our block just wasn’t getting where it needed to go Northampton coach Susan Ardnt said. “It’s going to be hard, it’s going to sting.”
The Konkrete Kids (18-2), playing their first league game since their 2014 Lehigh Valley Conference championship loss to Parkland, responded in the third set behind stellar play by senior setter Keller Repasch.
Repasch had two kills and two blocks in the third set and put fellow senior Johnny Martinez on the set point. Repasch finished with 36 assists, eight kills, eight digs and four blocks.
“We will see them again,” Ardnt said. “The biggest lesson is that we need to create more one-on-ones. They bet on our middle blockers, who have been the most effective throughout the season. Once they get that, we need to learning to reach the pins is the most important thing.
Trumbauer, the 2021 lehighvalleylive Men’s Volleyball Coach of the Year, agreed the game was heavily influenced by tactical changes.
“We know where their heavy hitters are and I said to them, ‘If we can put our bodies in front of their bodies, we’ll slow things down. They were trying to make adjustments and we were able to make adjustments to those. It was like a game of cat and mouse.
“If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what we would do,” Pursell said of Trumbauer.
Parkland seniors Matt Bauer (12 kills), Lukas Dashukewich (9 kills), Azhar Sumar (16 digs) and Parkland second Will Stiles (27 assists) have all contributed to Parkland. The Trojans will now look to defend their Class 3A District 11 title as the tournament seed.
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Desmond Boyle can be reached at [email protected].