COVINGTON TWP. – Shayne McGrady knew the odds.
The Coughlin boys volleyball head coach understood the situation at hand. Top-seed North Pocono stood in the way of a district final berth. The game was in the Trojans’ home gym.
Now add to the fact that McGrady’s team was a little banged up, sustaining some injuries in a recent practice.
North Pocono showed why it is the top seed, using a balanced attack to sweep the Crusaders in straight sets, 3-0, in the District 2 Class 2A semifinals. Pocono faces Holy Redeemer in Thursday’s final, while Coughlin falls into the third-place match against Western Wayne.
“We had some injuries in practice before this match, and that makes things even tougher,” McGrady said. “We had three hard weeks of practice heading into the quarterfinal match with Abington, and it paid off on the court. And we had sort of an easy practice, and we got banged up. Hey, it happens in sports. You just work through it.”
A different rotation took its time to gel.
Pocono was dominating in the first two sets before Coughlin awoke.
In a back-and-forth third set in which no team led by more than two until the final moments, the Trojans used a spurt on Eric Kramer’s serve to build a 23-19 lead.
But back-to-back blocks by Joshua Wilk put the Crusaders in striking distance at 23-22 on Michael Lewandowski’s serve. The comeback was short-lived as a communication error led to point No. 24 for Pocono, and Cory Rinaldi’s cross-court kill ended the match.
“We took a game against North Pocono in the regular season, and we knew that they had a good team,” McGrady said. “We knew it was going to be tough, but I was glad to see it come together in that third set. It was good to see that we got the heart pumping a little bit there.”
Pocono’s balance, though, was the difference.
Four different players had six or more kills. Rinaldi and Brent Bisignani, each had 10 kills, while middle hitter Billy Morrell showed power with eight spikes.
“Right now, I think all of our hitters have a lot of confidence,” Pocono head coach Jud Holdredge said. “We played two pretty good sets, and I think our passing kind of let us down in that third set. That’s when I called the time-out, and told the guys that we needed to pick it up. It’s nice to have that balance, though. The guys do a great job of picking each other up. It’s not going to be easy now. Redeemer has a nice team, and they’ve improved from the last time we played them. I think the pressure is on them. They won two straight district titles, and we haven’t won anything yet. It’s going to be a tough one.”
The Trojans, champs of the Wyoming Valley Conference, scored 11 straight points on Kramer’s serve in the opening set to build a 23-6 lead.
It was more of the same in the second. This time, it was a 9-0 run on Eric McLain’s serve that grew the advantage to 18-4.
“They have a great team, and they are so well coached,” McGrady said. “I think everything played out the right way. North Pocono and Redeemer were the two best teams all year, and they did their job to reach the final. And we’ll do our best and prepare for Western Wayne in the third-place match.”
Coughlin Leaders: Danny Sales, 13 assists, 2 blocks; Joshua Wilk, 6 kills.
North Pocono Leaders: Brent Bisignani, 10 kills; Cory Rinaldi, 10 kills; Eric Kramer, 6 kills, 2 aces