When Parkland High School held its graduation ceremonies last spring, it had to be a bittersweet day for swimming coach Rob Robitaille. Every coach wants to see athletes go on to college and a successful life after that, but they also have to face life without the athletes who are moving on in their lives. Robitaille saw a lot of quality athletes move on last spring.
“A lot of people say that this is our rebuild year, but I truly believe that we never rebuild, we just reload,” is how senior Emily Piston sees the Parkland girls basketball program.
After losing some key players from last season, a total of five seniors, Parkland is working to fill some holes. One of the reasons that the Trojans continue to be so strong is that younger players generally get playing time. Because of that, when they’re looked at to step into bigger roles, they’re generally ready, even though that’s never guaranteed.
Parkland girls soccer head coach Al Haddad knew exactly what was wrong with his team early on in the District 11 Finals against Stroudsburg and he let them know it. The veteran coach yelled “calm down” to his team from the sidelines about 10 minutes into the game.
After playing two regular season games that both resulted in ties, Parkland and Emmaus knew that wouldn’t happen when they met for the District 11 Championship at J. Birney Crum Stadium, thanks to the presence of penalty kicks that decide playoff games if two overtime periods aren’t enough.
Peter Kwakye-Ackah is one of the quieter members of the Parkland boys soccer team, but sometimes, it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for.
For the second year in a row, Kwakye-Ackah came up with a big postseason goal to help lead the Trojans to a victory. Liberty, the third seed in the tournament, was this year’s victim as the senior midfielder drilled home a perfect shot in overtime to beat the Hurricanes 3-2 in the District 11 Class 4A semifinals.
Things went pretty much to plan for Parkland’s girls soccer team Tuesday night as it jumped out to an early lead and then relied on defense to take a 3-0 win over Emmaus in the District 11 Class 4A semifinals at Northampton High School. The win puts the Lady Trojans into the district championship and guarantees them of a spot in the PIAA Tournament.
Parkland’s game plan consists of getting off to an early start offensively, and it took the Trojans about 10 minutes to get on the board against the Hornets.
Parkland girls soccer coach Al Haddad talks to his team constantly about getting quick starts in games, “playing downhill” once they have a lead, “finding feet” with their passes and keeping the ball out of the air. In the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Championship game against Emmaus, Haddad’s team got away from those things early in the game, but corrected them at the half and came away with a 2-0 win and their third straight EPC title.
The Parkland girls soccer team may be one of the hardest working teams in the Lehigh Valley.
The Trojans don’t practice like most teams. They go at each other hard and don’t let up just because they’re teammates. That type of intensity has prepared the team for the postseason and has made life easier on them. That tenacity has helped them to back-to-back 8-0 wins over Liberty and Whitehall in the EPC Playoffs, earning them a spot in the conference championship.
There’s a famous story about when the 1962 Mets, the first team in the franchise’s history, reported for Spring Training. Manager Casey Stengel assembled his players, held up a baseball and started to explain how it’s used in the game. Stengel was much like Millie Birosik Nemeth, who gave her field hockey players a ball and a stick in 1963 and started explaining how the game worked. After all, it was the first season that Parkland had a field hockey team and Nemeth was its coach.
It might not seem like Emmaus gave Parkland much of a battle in the Lady Trojans 4-0 win over the Hornets earlier this week. When you look deeper though, coach Al Haddad believes that the game provided his team with a tough challenge that it responded well against.
“That was our biggest test of the season,” said Haddad. “They came out and played us. I have a high level of respect for coach Oswald for playing us even-up and letting the chips fall where they may. They’re a great team and they’re only going to get better. They’ll be a force to deal with in districts,” said Haddad.