Derry seeking 1st WPIAL boys volleyball title since ’88

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018 | 6:06 PM


Derry's boys volleyball team hopes to make history Thursday.

The top-seeded Trojans (14-3) meet Ambridge (13-4) for WPIAL Class AA gold at 6 p.m. at Baldwin.

A win would give Derry its first WPIAL crown since 1988 and its first triumph over the Bridgers in five championship meetings. Ambridge defeated the Trojans in three straight title matches (2012-14) as well as in the 2010 championship.

“We've never beaten them in this round of the playoffs. We haven't been able to pull it off,” Derry senior Jeff Perratone said. “I am excited to go in there and break the curse.”

The squads met at Baldwin last year, but in the consolation match. Derry won that encounter 3-1 to reach the PIAA tournament. Also, it snapped a 10-match losing streak to the Bridgers in WPIAL tournament play. The Trojans' previous win came in 2003 (first round).

“It'll come down to which team plays better and, hopefully, that's us,” Derry coach Shawn Spencer said.

The two teams were at the top of the WPIAL rankings all season. Ambridge held the No. 1 spot until then-No. 3 Derry paid a visit May 9 and posted a 3-1 win.

“They are a great team, and we know we're going to have to come out there strong and come out knowing we can beat them and not get our heads down,” Derry junior John Kerr said. “I think we're just going to keep trying to do what we're doing and, hopefully, we come out on top. That's our goal.”

Both teams secured PIAA tournament berths with semifinal wins. The second-seeded Bridgers, who were in the semifinals for the 10th year in a row, swept Deer Lakes, 25-22, 26-24, 25-18. They are playing for their first WPIAL title since 2015 and eighth in the past 12 years. Overall, the program has eight district championships.

Last year's loss to Derry kept Ambridge out of the PIAA tournament for the first time since 2005.

“It's great to already have a spot in the state playoffs, but we want to focus on Thursday. It's great to be back there,” Ambridge coach Glenn Freed said. “We haven't been there in two years and that's like an eternity. We're happy we're going to be there.”

The Trojans, who have a size advantage over the Bridgers, feature an older roster with most of their contributors being seniors or juniors. They hope to come away Thursday with gold medals and head into Tuesday's PIAA tournament with momentum.

“We try to preach to the kids — win or lose, the sun will come up next day, hopefully. Right now with rain we've been having, that doesn't always hold true,” Spencer said. “We have two more matches, one way or another. We want to play them just like we would in the regular season. All we can do is play one match at a time.”

The Class AAA championship also will match the top two seeds. Defending champion North Allegheny (18-0) is the top seed and will face No. 2 Bethel Park (18-0) at 8 p.m.

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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