High school volleyball roundup: North Allegheny, Bethel Park win in Class AAA semifinals
Norwin had its share of struggles when it took on No. 3 Bethel Park in the semifinals of the WPIAL Class AAA boys volleyball playoffs Tuesday at Baldwin.
There were communication problems, poor passing, sub-par execution on set plays and a point penalty for an illegal libero substitution that were atypical of the second-seeded Knights this season.
It was not the expected showing from a team ranked No. 9 in the state by the Pa. Volleyball Coaches Association. But Bethel Park was certainly glad to take it as the Black Hawks rolled to a 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-23) victory to earn their first WPIAL Class AAA championship berth since losing to North Allegheny in 2008.
“I thought with all of our experience in the WPIALs and at states, we'll come up great, and we didn't. A couple of our seniors did but not enough of them,” Norwin coach Al Warden said. “They weren't ready to play. They really weren't. That was one of the worst games we've played against good competition all year.”
Bethel Park will return to Baldwin at 8 p.m. Thursday to play top-seeded and six-time defending champion North Allegheny in the title match. The teams have not met this season, but faced each other in the 2012 semifinals. The Tigers won, 3-2.
“We have to play hard and you've got to stop their middles,” Bethel Park coach Thomas Allman said. “Last year, we gave them a run in the semis, and we just ran out of juice.”
North Allegheny played two Section 3 teams to get to the finals and could have played a third had Norwin gotten past Bethel Park. The Tigers dropped a game in a 3-1 quarterfinal win over Latrobe then defeated Penn-Trafford, 3-0 (25-21, 25-14, 25-13), in the other semifinal Tuesday.
“We were able to block them pretty well, and we were able to cause some problems in their passing,” North Allegheny coach Dan Schall said. “We feel we got separation, and it's always tougher when you're down four in a game to play. We just put some pressure on them in Games 2 and 3, and that's what the difference was.”
It also helped that North Allegheny had the reigning WPIAL most valuable player in the middle of its lineup. Tigers senior middle blocker Tommy Kiesling finished with a game-high 22 kills, nearly three times as many as teammate Brendan Brown, who finished with eight.
“He's pretty tough, and he's as good of a guy as I've seen in a while,” Penn-Trafford coach Jim Schall said. “But the problem is they have four other guys that are pretty tough, too, so you can't just sit there and try to box out because they have many other hitters.”
Both Schalls also had a little family pressure on them when they took the court as their father and paternal grandfather, who turned 95 on Tuesday, were in attendance.
“That was pretty cool for grandpa's 95th birthday. That's pretty awesome,” Dan Schall said. “I hope I'm watching some volleyball when I'm 95.”
Jim Schall might have another chance at his brother if Penn-Trafford can rebound and qualify for the state playoffs. A win against Norwin in the third-place consolation match 6 p.m. Thursday in Baldwin's auxiliary gym, and the Warriors will play the WPIAL champion May 29 in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAA tournament at a site and time to be determined.
Norwin and Penn-Trafford split their two section matches this season.
“We've had a few tough losses,” Dan Schall said. “I don't have any doubt that we'll play a good match on Thursday.”
In Class AA, top-seeded Ambridge and No. 2 Derry won, 3-0, over Beaver County Christian and OLSH, respectively. They will face off in the WPIAL Class AA finals Thursday at Baldwin.