NA boys volleyball nets first state title since 1999
The title “WPIAL champion” has preceded North Allegheny boys volleyball coach Dan Schall's name 10 times.
For the first time in his 11-year career, Schall can add a new prefix — “PIAA champion.”
The Tigers topped District 1 champion Pennsbury, 3-1, at the Penn State Multi-Sport Facility in State College on June 8 to a secure the school's first state crown in boys volleyball since 1999. Not only did the Tigers finish a perfect 21-0 this season, but when broken down, North Allegheny won 115 out of 125 games.
“It was great to finally win it,” Schall said. “I told everyone who's asked that the destination was great, but the journey made it special. I'm really happy for these kids.”
Schall said there was a different feeling dating back to the preseason. He said there was a sense that this could be the year the Tigers would kick down the door and make a serious push for the state title.
“I can honestly say that I knew from the get-go that we'd be in contention for the state title,” he said.
“Once you get to the final four, anything can happen when it's a great team vs. another great team. I knew when it got toward the end that we'd be in the hunt for it.”
Schall said his group of nine seniors deserve all the credit for helping the program prosper, and their names will be synonymous with the new addition to North Allegheny's trophy case.
“This senior class typified what we hope to get out of all of our classes,” Schall said. “This group is so talented and unselfish, I couldn't ask for a better group.”
Whether they started or came off the bench, each senior contributed this year. Suyash Fulay, Joe Murphy and Tommy Keisling were dominant and garnered notable college recognition. Daniel Rodgers, Alex Glisan, Justin Zweig, Adam Haus, Luke Koenig and Shawn Rogers provided depth and brought energy and emotion when needed.
Schall wasn't the only member of the program to breathe a sigh of relief at the title game's conclusion. The elation in the locker room was visible even days later.
“When you want something so bad, it's a weird feeling when you finally have it,” Murphy said.
“Most of these guys have been playing together since seventh grade, so to win it with them makes it even more special.”
Added Fulay, “Everyone knows we've had success in the WPIALs, and the state title has eluded us and coach for so long. To go out and win it with all my brothers and for coach is awesome.
“He's such a great guy and a role model, he deserves it.”
The fact that a PIAA championship trophy has been lacking for North Allegheny's trophy case is something that Schall said had no impact on his mindset throughout this season.
“I look at it as we've had a pretty impressive streak to be in the state (semifinals) in eight of the last 11 years,” he said. “To be in the hunt ever year is as impressive as it was to win it.”
Next year, the team will try to continue its dominance with a new crop of seniors — and, according to Fulay — the program is in good hands.
“I hope we showed the younger kids how to pick each other up when things aren't going well,” Fulay said. “I hope they can carry on what we tried to do these last four years … as long as coach Schall is still around, I know they will be fine.”
Brian Graham is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.