North Allegheny advances to PIAA championship match
ALTOONA — For the second time in three years, North Allegheny will play for a PIAA Class AAA volleyball championship.
And the Tigers can thank — among others — Justin Zweig.
North Allegheny's 6-foot-3 senior opposite hitter sparked a second-game surge with three clutch kills, and the Tigers toppled District 3 runner-up Central Dauphin, 3-0, in a state semifinal match Wednesday at Altoona High School.
“It's a great feeling,” Tigers' coach Dan Schall said. “We had nothing but respect for Central Dauphin. We knew they were a great team and we knew this would be a major test. So this is a big win. The guys feel pretty good about beating a team of this caliber.”
The Tigers, who won, 25-16, 25-19, 29-27, will play District 1 champ Pennsbury in the championship match at 3 p.m. Saturday at Penn State's Multi-Sport Facility in University Park.
North Allegheny, the WPIAL champ, will be making its 13th trip to the state finals since Pennsylvania began contesting boys volleyball championships in 1936.
The Tigers' last appearance was in 2011, when they lost to Central York. North Allegheny won state championships in 1999 (Spring Grove), 1991 (Hempfield), 1987 (Derry) and 1979 (Maplewood).
The Tigers lost in state title matches in 2011, 2003 (Hempfield), 2002 (Hempfield), 1993 (Northeastern), 1985 (Central York), 1983 (Conestoga Valley), 1982 (Central York) and 1980 (Plum).
The Tigers got the job done via the air attack, with clutch blocks and timely kills. Zweig was the catalyst.
Up 1-0 but locked in a battle against the Rams midway though the second game, he came up with three kills to give North Allegheny momentum, and the Tigers went on to win, 25-19, and put Central Dauphin on the brink.
Junior outside hitter David Haus also came up with a pair of kills for the Tigers during the game-changing run, as North Allegheny controlled the net.
“Blocking on our side was unbelievable,” Zweig said. “I thought we were both really good blocking teams. So that put a lot of pressure on our block to show up, and it did. We talked about winning the battle at the net. That's always been our strength, and that definitely showed tonight.”
Junior middle blocker Brendan Brown paced North Allegheny with 11 blocks, while Zweig chipped in with nine and senior middle blocker Alex Glisan had seven, plus nine digs.
Zweig also had eight kills, while senior outside hitter Tommy Keisling led the way with 15 kills, and junior outside hitter Mitch Higgins chipped in with five.
Senior setter Joe Murphy also had a busy night for the Tigers, registering 34 assists and six digs. Senior libero Suyash Fulay added 11 digs.
“It's a great feeling,” Schall said. “I thought tonight we made some really big blocks, and I thought our guys came up with some really clutch swings.”
Jeff Reinhart is a freelance writer.