Bethlehem Press

Thursday, September 21, 2017
Press photo by Rob MerchantBecahi’s Ryan Hulbert (6) looks to get the ball past his opponent during a recent match. The Hawks are 5-3 this season. Copyright - Digital Media Magic Press photo by Rob MerchantBecahi’s Ryan Hulbert (6) looks to get the ball past his opponent during a recent match. The Hawks are 5-3 this season. Copyright - Digital Media Magic
Press photo by Rob MerchantFreedom’s Michael Marakovits and Wil Cacciatore look to make a play during a recent game. Copyright - Digital Media Magic Press photo by Rob MerchantFreedom’s Michael Marakovits and Wil Cacciatore look to make a play during a recent game. Copyright - Digital Media Magic

Hawks showing improvement

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 by Peter Car pcar@tnonline.com in Sports

Bethlehem Catholic’s volleyball team is slowly working their way back to the level of respectability that head coach Jeff Koch has hoped for since returning back to the sidelines for the Hawks.

Following a 1-15 campaign a year ago, the Hawks have jumped out to a 5-3 start this season.

Despite getting swept in each of their losses to Parkland, Whitehall and Northampton, teams with a combined record of 19-3, Koch is pleased with the direction things are moving for the Hawks.

“We feel great about how our season started,” Koch said. “We have enough returners that are truly acting as great leaders in helping our newcomers pick up the game of volleyball as quickly as possible. Overall, we have a group of guys that are invested in getting Becahi boys volleyball back on the map.”

Getting back on the map has been the goal for Koch in his second time around as Hawks head coach, as his last tenure saw them win a state championship in 2012.

Since 2013, the program has fallen on hard times, struggling to compete and finishing in the bottom third of the conference each year.

This year, however, has seen the tide turn back to a level of competitiveness that had been absent for longer than anyone could have imagined after winning a state championship five years ago.

“This season I feel that we are ahead of schedule,” he said. “We are still very young as we only have two seniors, but each day I see our guys are becoming more and more consistent. After our loss to Parkland we knew that we had to become more consistent in our service game, as well as our offensive attack. Each day seems to be getting better for us thus far.”

This week the Hawks take on Freedom (5-4) and Emmaus (7-0) on Tuesday and Thursday respectively.

It’s another opportunity for Koch and company to show how much they’ve improved or if their ultimate ceiling this year is being midlevel team.

Either way, it’s a positive sign for the program after years in the cellar.

“We do have more confidence as a group this year,” said Koch. “The way we are able to train at practice this season compared to last is definitely up some levels. This season I’m not seeing as many reoccurring errors which tells me that our guys are confident in their abilities even when moments get tough.”

Liberty was supposed to go through a bit of rebuilding this season after losing a large senior class last season, but the Hurricanes (5-2) have shown that they haven’t tumbled too far down the ladder this season.

With Monday’s 3-1 (21-25, 25-15, 25-22, 25-17) win over Easton, Nazareth (5-3) and Pocono Mountain West (0-8) are left on this week’s slate.

It’s a perfect opportunity for the Hurricanes to identify themselves as the top team in the conference behind the current power three of Whitehall (8-0), Parkland (7-0) and Emmaus (7-0).

Freedom (5-4) has a chance to gain momentum this week with matches against Becahi, Allen (1-6), Dieruff (4-6) and North Pocono.

The Pates have struggled with consistency, but have also been one of only two teams to take a game from Parkland this season. This week could be the elixir needed to keep them in the mid-table battle with their Bethlehem counterparts.