North Allegheny, Ambridge win WPIAL volleyball titles
All North Allegheny wanted to do Friday against Norwin was win a WPIAL Class AAA boys volleyball title.
Making history in the process was just a bonus.
North Allegheny senior Zach Shaw and junior Tommy Keisling, the WPIAL Class AAA co-Players of the Year, combined for 26 kills, and Keisling had service aces on all three set points as the Tigers rolled over the third-seeded Knights, 3-0 (25-16, 25-21, 25-21) at Chartiers Valley.
The win gave the Tigers their sixth consecutive WPIAL Class AAA title and ninth in the past 10 years.
“Man, are they good,” North Allegheny coach Dan Schall said. “Zach and Tommy, they were just guns on the outside, and I'm really proud to see that they are able to play their best when the stage is the biggest.”
Norwin, which upset No. 2 Seneca Valley in the semifinals, has lost to North Allegheny three times this season. The Knights dropped the first meeting at the Derry tournament and lost on their home floor during the regular season.
Though the final scores of the games were close yesterday, the match's outcome basically was decided in the first set. With Norwin leading, 10-9, North Allegheny reeled off seven consecutive points that gave them a 16-10 lead and forced the Knights to play from behind the rest of the match.
“I think that set the tone for the whole match,” Norwin coach Al Warden said. “We practiced that rotation, and we just didn't execute.”
North Allegheny's six consecutive WPIAL Class AAA titles are the most by any boys program, breaking a tie with Penn Hills (1972-73 to 1976-77), which won the first five in WPIAL history. The Tigers' streak is third all-time behind the Norwin girls, which won 13 from 1973-74 to 1985-86 and Farrell's seven straight from 1981-82 to 1987-88.
North Allegheny has won 15 WPIAL Class AAA titles, the most among boys programs and tied with the Norwin (Class AAA) and Farrell (Class AA) girls for the most in a single classification. Farrell, which now competes in District 10, holds the overall WPIAL record with 20 titles after winning its final five in Class A from 2000-04.
North Allegheny now seeks its first state title since 1999 on Tuesday, when it plays District 3 fourth-place finisher in PIAA Class AAA tournament first-round match at a time and site to be determined.
Norwin (15-2) also will open play in the state tournament Tuesday, traveling to Juniata College to face District 6 champion State College at a time to be determined.
Ambridge 3, Derry 2 — Top-ranked Ambridge faced a two-game deficit against Derry in their WPIAL Class AA championship match but rallied for the win.
Both teams will advance to the first round of the PIAA tournament Tuesday at times and sites to be determined.
Sophomore Lee Smith sparked the Ambridge comeback with an assortment of shots that stymied Derry and carried the Bridgers (13-2) to their fourth WPIAL title in the past five seasons.
“You could see the drive in his face,” Ambridge coach Glenn Freed said. “Everybody did a fantastic job. I couldn't have hoped for more.”
After a slow start, Smith finished with a team-high 29 kills and six blocks.
“He's a phenomenal player,” Derry coach Shawn Spencer said.
Senior Justin Gleason added 44 assists for Ambridge, which hadn't lost a game in the playoffs until dropping the first two decisions to Derry, 25-18 and 25-14.
The momentum began to swing in Ambridge's favor in the third game as the Section 1-champion Bridgers claimed a 25-12 win.
Derry (15-2) never recovered, though the Trojans nearly overcame six-point deficit in the fourth game before losing, 25-23. Ambridge won the fifth and final game, 15-8, scoring the final three points.
Keith Barnes and Dave Mackall are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Barnes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1977, and Mackall can be reached at email@example.com or 412-380-5617.