North Allegheny wins state boys volleyball title, Ambridge falls in finals
TribLIVE Sports Videos
STATE COLLEGE — Red-faced and restless, North Allegheny senior Justin Zweig shuffled his feet as he waited for the PIAA medal that eluded him and his classmates during the past three springs.
The Tigers, so close to the PIAA Class AAA boys volleyball apex during the past several years, finally reached the top Saturday, as they defeated Pennsbury, 3-1, to claim their first state title since 1999. They won Games 1, 2 and 4 by scores of 25-18, 25-23 and 25-18, and they lost Game 3, 25-23.
The championship was the fifth overall for North Allegheny (21-0), which took second in 2011 and reached the semifinals when Zweig and his teammates were freshmen.
“If I could use one word to describe this, I'd say it's relieving,” said Zweig, who scored the match's final two points with a block and a kill. “(Since seventh grade), I've pictured what it'd be like to win, especially as a senior. So to have the winning kill, it's just an unbelievable feeling.”
Zweig, who missed last season with a broken left leg, finished with 14 kills and seven blocks in the match.
Tommy Keisling had a team-high 21 kills. Alex Gilsan registered 11 blocks, and Brendan Brown added nine.
Setter Joe Murphy earned 48 assists. He also had 13 digs, while libero Suyash Fulay had 20, and Keisling had 10.
Fully embracing their place atop the PIAA hierarchy, the Tigers and their family members spent more than 30 minutes posing for pictures on the center court.
“I really love some of these guys who came up short, and I feel like this is a medal for everyone,” North Allegheny coach Dan Schall said.
In each game except the third, North Allegheny and Pennsbury (20-1) remained tied or close until the mid-teens, at which point the Tigers pulled away. They turned an 11-11 tie into a 17-12 lead in Game 1. In Game 2, they turned a 15-12 deficit into a 19-17 edge. And in Game 4, they broke away after Pennsbury cut an NA lead to 17-16.
“There have been a ton of games where we're down by four or five, and then we come back,” Zweig said. “We build off that, and then we're almost unstoppable. If we're at our best, good luck to the other team.”
The clash between two of the PIAA's most consistently strong Class AA boys volleyball programs, Ambridge and Northeastern, ended with a mob of orange-clad Bobcats celebrating at center court.
Northeastern secured its second Class AA title — the classification came into existence in 2007 — and fourth overall as it topped the Bridgers, 3-1, in the championship match. The Bobcats (31-3), champions in 2010 and finalists in '07, won Games 1, 3 and 4 by scores of 25-15, 25-22 and 25-22. Ambridge (17-4-1), a state finalist in 2008 and a champion in '09, claimed Game 2, 25-23.
“We played well, but Northeastern is such a great team, and they played well, too, so we knew it was going to be a battle,” Ambridge coach Glenn Freed said.
Lee Smith finished with 23 kills and two aces. Brandon Buck added 10 kills, one ace and a block, while Dan Zajac had three kills and three blocks. All three are juniors.
Reese Devilbliss registered 18 kills, two aces and four blocks for Northeastern, while Stephen Braswell had 17 kills.
As libero, senior Cody Brooks — one of the Bridgers' five seniors — shouldered the responsibility of facing Northeastern's fiercest spikes.
“I was expecting to get hit,” Brooks said. “I'm one of those kids who, I'm going to be where the ball is and I don't care what it hits off. … I don't care if it hits off my face.”
Brooks said he and the rest of the Bridgers faced considerable pressure to reach the PIAA title match after falling in the semifinals last season. The fact Ambridge last reached the championship round when the current seniors were in eighth grade only added to the expectations.
“This was the minimum standard for a satisfying season for us,” Brooks said. “I figured we'd have a little bit of jitters coming in, and I was glad we were able to fight back in Game 2, 3 and 4.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers defense must replace three injured starters
- Pirates notebook: Volquez open to re-signing with team
- Steelers notebook: Running game kept Panthers guessing
- Gubernatorial debate features incumbent in need of win vs. wealthy businessman running as an outsider
- Penguins notebook: Crosby gets early work
- Root Sports prepares for Pitt/WVU telecast overlap
- At least 40 Iraqi soldiers killed in Islamic State strike; dozens captured
- Rossi: State of NFL gives Steelers a chance
- Peduto’s first budget proposal seeks to increase real estate tax rate
- Port Authority bus drives over embankment; driver only one aboard
- NFL notebook: QB-strapped Bucs hold tryout for Pryor