North Allegheny, Ambridge again claim WPIAL volleyball championships
The North Allegheny boys volleyball team completed what seems like an annual spring ritual Thursday night at Baldwin — winning the WPIAL Class AAA title.
With their 3-0 win over Norwin, the Tigers claimed their eighth consecutive title and 11th in 12 seasons.
“It means a lot of tradition, a lot of hard work that guys have to do and playing with a lot of pressure on their shoulders, as well,” North Allegheny coach Dan Schall said of his team's eight consecutive championships.
Yet the match didn't start off quite the way the top-seeded Tigers (14-1) would have liked. Trailing 9-3 to start the first set, Schall called a quick timeout to gather his team.
“They blitzed us,” Schall said. “They blocked well, they passed well right out of the gates and the timeout was all about poise. The message at the timeout was, ‘It's a long game, and it's a long match.' It was pretty amazing to look those guys in the eye because they were unfazed by it.”
North Allegheny responded by winning the first set 25-23 before cruising to a second-set win (25-11) and edging Norwin, 25-21, in the third. The Tigers were led by Mitch Higgins' 15 kills, Brendan Brown chipped in with 11 and David Haus had nine.
Bethel Park and Fox Chapel will join North Allegheny and Norwin (14-1) in the PIAA tournament, starting Wednesday as the Tigers set out to defend the state title they won a year ago.
“It's a new season, really for all WPIAL teams,” Schall said. “I think all WPIAL teams have an opportunity to make a splash. We'll enjoy this, and we want our season to keep going because these guys really love one another, and they really like playing the game.”
Ambridge also carried on its streak of WPIAL titles, winning the Class AA title for a third straight year in a 3-0 triumph over Derry.
Trailing late in each of the first two sets, the top-seeded Bridgers used late runs to tie and eventually take the lead in each. Ambridge (10-1) came back from being down 19-15 in the first set to win 29-27 and overcame a 24-18 deficit in the second set with the next six points for the victory.
“It's a belief in yourself and your teammates when you're able to just keep fighting and keep going,” Ambridge coach Glenn Freed said. “We always talk about point for point. What are you going to do that next rally? Who cares about the score, just what are you going to go and do? And they showed it.”
No. 2 Derry (10-1) finished as the WPIAL runner-up to Ambridge for the third straight year and the fourth time in five seasons. The title marks Ambridge's sixth in the last seven years.
“A three-peat, we were looking forward to that since last year when we went back-to-back,” Freed said. “It's so fun for the guys to do that.”
Lee Smith and Brandon Buck led the Bridgers in kills with 18 and 16, respectively.
Both teams advance to the PIAA championships along with OLSH, which won the consolation game 3-2 over Beaver County Christian.
Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.