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Bethel Park volleyball looks to rebound in PIAA playoffs

| Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Conor Ralph | Tribune-Review
North Allegheny's Brendan Brown attempts to block a spike from Bethel Park's Bobby Huntington during the WPIAL Class AAA boys volleyball championship game Thursday, May 23, 2013, at Baldwin. North Allegheny defeated Bethel Park, 3-2.

Bethel Park boys volleyball coach Tom Allman preaches a team-first mentality.

He doesn't keep individual statistics for his players and instills “it's-all-about-the-team” concepts. Allman doesn't tell his star players about individual postseason awards until the end of the season.

“We are all about the team. (A couple of years ago), we were more worried about our individual stats, so now we don't do stats anymore,” Allman said. “I keep telling my kids, you're not on any other team but Bethel Park's team.”

This team concept could easily be the reason for the Black Hawks' 15-1 regular-season record and runner-up finish in the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.

“At the beginning of the season, we put our personal goals aside and started to work toward the team goal,” senior opposite hitter Grant Underwood said. “It's so special playing on a team where you play for the guy next to you.”

Bethel Park's only regular-season loss was at Upper St. Clair in a game that went to five games. The Black Hawks' also last to six-time defending WPIAL champion North Allegheny last week in the title game, 25-17, 21-25, 25-9, 21-25, 15-8.

After it seemed they calmed down, the Black Hawks started to make unforced errors and struggled in the third game. After the third game, assistant coach Zack Smith gave an inspirational speech which seemed to strike a chord to force a fifth and deciding game.

“(In the fifth game), we gave up a bunch of easy points early on, which is one thing you don't want to do in such a short game because it takes a lot of energy to come back from a deficit like that,” Allman said. “We took them to five and we didn't give it up. We are hoping we have another opportunity to do it again.”

The Black Hawks are led by Underwood, who is considered by Allman as one of the best in Western Pennsylvania, senior libero Luke Hudson and senior setter Vance Blanc. Allman also looks forward to a huge impact from freshman outside hitter Jake Dixon.

In order to get to the WPIAL Class AAA championship, Bethel Park defeated Seneca Valley in the quarterfinals, 3-1, and Norwin in the semifinals, 3-0.

Allman and the rest of the Black Hawks are quite aware they have the opportunity to avenge their loss to North Allegheny later on in the PIAA playoffs if they both win their respective matches. But it doesn't appear Bethel Park is looking for revenge.

“We don't look at it as revenge. We look at it as what we deserve and the satisfaction of beating a very good team,” Allman said. “It would be a big step for us going into the state semifinals.”

However, Bethel Park knows North Allegheny is the one to beat in Class AAA this season. Chambersburg is also considered one of the top contenders.

The Black Hawks' last PIAA appearance was in 2008 and they lost to Central York, the eventual PIAA Class AAA runner-up. That year, Central York finished third in District 3 and barely made it into the state playoffs but was able to make it to the state finals.

“You never know who's running the hot streak at the time,” Allman said. “We hope to play well in the state playoffs and enjoy the tournament for what it is. We don't always have the opportunity to get there very often.”

Bethel Park was scheduled to play District 6 champion State College on Wednesday. Results were unavailable before this edition's deadline.

Andrew John is a freelance writer.

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