Hornets prevail on Spike Out Cancer night
Pete Schneider Gymnasium was filled with gray-clad spectators and signs of encouragement as Northampton hosted their Spike Out Cancer event on Thursday in conjunction with a volleyball match against Emmaus.
This year’s event held special meaning because it was held in support of girls volleyball head coach Jess Finlayson, who is battling brain cancer.
The emotion-filled pregame featured the two teams wearing matching gray warmups that read, “Team Jess No One Fights Alone” on the back.
Fellow teachers, the Northampton team captains and seniors, and Jess’ mother spoke words of love, support, and encouragement. Finally, Jess thanked everyone for their support and vowed not to let brain cancer beat her. Coach Finlayson then turned everyone’s attention back to sports by exclaiming, “Let’s play volleyball!”
The Kids came out inspired in the first set, jumping to an 11-7 lead over the team that was at the time, the top-ranked 4A team in District XI. The Green Hornets fought back and built a 15-12 lead. Northampton was able to forge a tie at 18-18, but a 5-point service run finally gave Emmaus the set at 25-19.
The Hornets rode the momentum from the first set to a 14-9 lead midway through the second. This time, it was the Kids who mounted a comeback to take a 24-22 lead. After Emmaus won back the serve at 24-23, Finlayson attempted to ice the server by calling a timeout. Showing that in the heat of competition volleyball can be thicker than blood, the Hornet server happened to be Jess’ sister. The serve successfully cleared the net, but the Kids’ serve receive was up to the task. When a Lindsey Nemeth tip hit the floor on the Emmaus side of the net, there was much rejoicing in the gym.
Unfortunately, Northampton was unable to ride the emotional wave in the third and fourth sets, dropping them by the scores of 25-19 and 25-17.
Brooke Rockovits and Alexa Barowski led the Kids with 11 kills each. Setter Sydney Heffner recorded 32 assists to go with her 4 block assists in the match.
After the match, Finlayson spoke about her pride in her team’s performance.
“Emmaus, right now, is the best team in the Lehigh Valley,” she said. “I told the girls, the fact that we can beat a team that has beaten Parkland, Central, Whitehall, Nazareth, means that we can beat any of those teams too.”
The Kids will have to take that confidence to heart as they need to sweep Parkland, Central, and Nazareth in their final three matches to qualify for districts. Perhaps the most important lesson they can take from the night is that you have to fight as hard as you can, no matter how tough the battle.