MSA Sports Top 25 WPIAL Stories From 2015 Countdown: #25 – #11

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Thursday, December 31, 2015 | 1:10 PM


It has become a tradition like no other…at least during the holiday season here at MSA Sports. Here is a look back at another great high school sports year with the top stories from around the WPIAL in 2015. We begin our countdown with #25 through #11.

#25 – ODD STREAK CONTINUES

Since boys lacrosse became a WPIAL sanction sport in 2009, Mount Lebanon has had an odd streak going that continued in 2015. The Blue Devils captured the first WPIAL boys lacrosse crown in 2009 and again two years later in 2011 and again two years later in 2013 and again two years later here in 2015. Four championships in seven years, all in odd numbered years. In May, Mount Lebanon’s Dan Lee scored with just six seconds left in double overtime to beat the North Allegheny Tigers 9-8.

#24 – CONSOLATION KINGS

The WPIAL sent three boys soccer teams to the 2015 PIAA state soccer championship matches in Hershey on November 20th and November 21st. It was only the fifth time in history and third time in the last ten years that the WPIAL had three teams in the boys soccer state finals. But what was unique about the trio of Seneca Valley in AAA, South Park in AA and Sewickley Academy in A was that none of them won a WPIAL championship. In fact, none of the three even made it to the WPIAL title match. All three teams lost in the WPIAL Semifinals and the Raiders and Panthers needed a consolation game victory just to make the PIAA playoffs. While Seneca valley and South Park settled for state silver, Sewickley Academy was able to win the schools fourth state soccer crown.

#23 – CELESTIAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Only three school in PIHL history had won four straight high school hockey crowns. Quaker Valley was a favorite to become the fourth school to do it in March when they hit the ice at CONSOL Energy Center to battle rival Mars. Ironically, it was the Quakers who ended the Fighting Planets hope of a fourth straight PIHL championship in the spring of 2012. Paul Maust scored twice in the first period and added another goal in the third to complete the hat trick in the Fighting Planets 4-2 victory over the Quakers. The win gave Mars a fourth PIHL title and kept Quaker Valley from matching the four straight titles of Meadville, Peters Township and Bishop McCort.

#22 – PERFECT PITCH

The Norwin Knights girls soccer team enjoyed a season for the ages in 2015 as they captured the schools third girls soccer district title and first in nearly 20 years since 1997. Norwin dominated the regular season en route to a Class AAAA Section 1 title and entered the playoffs as the top-seed with a record of 18-0-0. In those 18 wins, the Knights regiatered 15 shutout victories and only allowed three goals total. The domination continued through the WPIAL playoffs as the Knights outscored four opponents 11-1 en route to the crown. The season ended though two wins from perfection when the Knights fell to Upper St. Clair in the PIAA Semifinals 2-1. It was the same Panthers team they beat in the WPIAL Finals 3-0.

#21 – GOLDEN CRUSADE

The Bishop Canevin girls volleyball team was used to success. They had made it to the WPIAL Class A Finals three straight years and four times in the last five years, winning the 2013 championship. While hopes were once again high coming into the 2015 season, a key injury to Erin Cunningham cast a cloud a doubt, especially when the Crusaders lost twice in section play and finished in second place behind Serra Catholic in Class A Section 2. However Cunningham rejoined her teammates midway through the playoffs to help Bishop Canevin upset defending champion Greensburg Central Catholic in a Semifinals thriller and then advance to beat Shenango in the title match. Bishop Canevin then went on to win the PIAA Class A title becoming only third WPIAL school to win a state crown in Class A girls volleyball. 

#20 – EMOTIONAL CROWN

There are many things that inspire championship teams. Sadly, death is one of them. One week after the funeral of Jefferson-Morgan assistant coach Chris Dugan, the inspired Rockets beat perennial power and top-seed Chartiers-Houston 3-2 in late May for the schools first ever softball championship. Maddie Ludrosky struck out a dozen batters and Morgan Simkovic doubled home the go-ahead run in a three-run fifth inning as the Rockets registered their eleventh straight victory since they lost to the Buccaneers on April 1st. The memorable season for Jefferson-Morgan ended with a loss to Cochranton in the PIAA softball Quarterfinals.

#19 – END OF A DYNASTY

From 1970 to 1977, the Penn Hills Indians captured eight straight WPIAL boys volleyball championships. That amazing string of titles was matched by the North Allegheny Tigers from 2007 through 2014. The NA run was even more impressive because they had won three titles in a row before Fox Chapel won the championship in 2006 prior to the Tigers eight year run. However a record ninth consecutive championship did not happen in 2015 for North Allegheny. In May, the Tigers lost to Plum 3-1 in the WPIAL Quarterfinals. In the Class AAA Finals, top-seed Fox Chapel used massive net play and tenacious serving to defeat No. 2 Seneca Valley 3-1 to claim their second ever WPIAL Boys AAA Volleyball Championship.

#18 – CROSS-COUNTRY QUEEN

Vincentian Academy runner Marianne Abdulah continued her dominant ways in 2015 becoming the first Class A runner and fifth female runner in WPIAL history to capture three straight district cross-country championships. The junior won gold at the Coopers lake Course outside of Butler on a windy day in late October by 31 seconds with a winning time of 19:01. Abdulah now has a chance to match Natalie Bower’s record of four straight WPIAL cross-country championships in the fall of 2016. Another big story from the past year was the injury that sidelined Brianna Schwartz of Shaler. In February, the three-time cross-country champ and the holder of three track and field records was diagnosed with a stress fracture in her lower left tibia that kept her from performing in the spring.

#17 – VIKINGS RULE

There were high expectations for the 2014 runners-up in WPIAL Class AAAA Pittsburgh Central Catholic coming into the 2015 campaign. They had many key players back from the previous year and had nearly a dozen players getting look from Division I-A colleges. However a Week 3 loss to North Allegheny planted a seed of doubt for some that maybe this talented group was not going to mesh as a team. Instead, that 24-17 loss to the Tigers awoke the slumbering giant. The Vikings won their next six regular season games by a combined score of 286-56. They finished as co-champs in the Northern Eight Conference with North Allegheny and Pine-Richland, yet were surprisingly seeded #5 going into the WPIAL football playoffs. Wins over Upper St. Clair, North Allegheny and top-seed Woodland Hills by an average score of 35-8 put Central Catholic in the Quad-A title game for a third straight year, this time against undefeated Penn-Trafford. The Vikings prevailed 24-17 in a dandy at Heinz Field for the schools fifth district gridiron crown. Central Catholic then beat State College, Cumberland Valley and Parkland in the state playoffs to tie Central Bucks West for most state titles in the highest classification of the now ending Quad-A era with four PIAA championships.

#16 – NA’s GOLDEN POOL

This is no longer a news flash, but the North Allegheny swim team is pretty darn good. For the fourth consecutive year, the North Allegheny boys and girls swim teams both captured WPIAL championships. The girls team cruised to a nearly 300 points victory over runner-up Upper St. Clair to win a seventh consecutive WPIAL girls swimming championship. The boys meanwhile ‘edged’ Upper St. Clair by 53 points to win a fourth straight WPIAL boys swimming title and the Tigers ninth district crown in the last ten years. The North Allegheny girls would go on to finish second in the PIAA team championships while the boys would finish third in the state championship meet.

#15 – DECADE OF DOMINANCE

When it comes to high school football, repeating a championship is not an easy feat. Nor is winning multiple titles over a span of four or five years. But in the over 100 year history of WPIAL football, nobody has come even close to dominating the district landscape with what Clairton has done. In the last ten years from 2006 through 2015, the Bears have captured eight WPIAL crowns and four PIAA state championships. In that ten year period, Clairton is a combined 140 wins and 9 losses with a WPIAL and PIAA record 66-consecutive wins as well. In 2015, the Bears cruised to another undefeated regular season and Class A Eastern Conference title before disposing of Carmichaels, Avonworth, Frazier and Jeannette in the WPIAL playoffs by a combined score of 212-42 for a second straight district championship. One of the shockers of 2015 came in the Quarterfinals of the PIAA Class A football playoffs when Clairton was stunned by District 5 champion Berlin-Brothersvalley 35-22. This upset came a year after the Bears pounded the Mountaineers in the same round on the Road to Hershey 52-24.

#14 – HEROES ON THE HILLS

Thanks to top seven finishes by Marc Migliozzi (2nd), Jacob Stupak (5th) and Sam Blechman (7th), North Allegheny cruised to another WPIAL Class AAA boys cross-country championship in October, beating runner-up Seneca Valley by 41 points. The team title was the Tigers 11th in a row dating back to 2005. Ironically, the second longest title streak in boy cross-country was also held by North Allegheny with eight in a row from 1990 to 1997. North Allegheny finished second in the PIAA boys Class AAA championships to Downingtown West.

#13 – GOLDEN DOZEN

It’s now a golden dozen when describing the on-going dominance of the Sewickley Academy boys tennis team. The Panthers swept past Winchester Thurston 5-0 in May to capture a 12th straight WPIAL Class AA boys team tennis championship. The title is the 19th boys team tennis crown in 21 years for Sewickley Academy. The Panthers never dropped a game in wins over Greensburg-Salem, Keystone Oaks, Quaker Valley and Winchester Thurston. While Sewickley Academy has dominated the district in Class AA, they have only won one PIAA crown in the last twelve years and that came in 2006.

#12 – THE BUCS STOP IN THE WINNERS CIRCLE AGAIN

The Burrell wrestling team has built a dynasty over the past decade, and that success continued in January as the Buccaneers defeated McGuffey 38-25 to capture their ninth straight WPIAL Class AA Championship. The amazing run for the Bucs has included four head coaches in Chris Como, Ryan Yates, Bud Sines and now Josh Shields. The nine year run of wrestling titles continues to pull away from the previous WPIAL record of consecutive team titles shared by Canonsburg (1936-1941) and Waynesburg (1959-1964). While Burrell is the king of district Double-A wrestling since 2007, they have only captured one PIAA Class AA state crown, which happened in 2011.

#11 – MANY GREAT KNIGHTS

The Knoch Knights baseball team captured their first ever WPIAL championship before going on to add a PIAA state baseball crown to their trophy case. Anytime a team can win district and state gold, its a great story. But when you consider that coming into the 2015 season, the Knoch baseball program had only won ONE postseason game in their history, their playoff run in May and June was even more amazing. in 2014, Knoch made the playoffs with an overall record of 7-8. They picked up the programs first ever playoff win with a 5-3 victory over Thomas Jefferson before being eliminated by Hampton 6-2. But 2015 was a total turnaround. After winning three of their first four, the Knights ripped of 12 consecutive wins before losing their regular season finale 4-1 to Pine-Richland. It would be the final taste of defeat by Knoch as they would beat Belle Vernon, Blackhawk, Montour and defending champion West Allegheny by a combined score of 16-5, then beat Punxsutawney, Montour again, Donegal and Abington Heights by a combined score of 19-7 with two shutouts to cap off a historic season for the Knights.

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