After long wait, North Allegheny volleyball ready for shot at 3rd straight state title

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Thursday, June 10, 2021 | 9:02 PM


North Allegheny boys volleyball coach Dan Schall described this season as “a journey without a road map.”

Considering the Tigers hadn’t played for a year and were playing through the covid-19 pandemic, there were a few more obstacles than usual to navigate. In the end, though, they arrived at a familiar destination.

North Allegheny will try to win its third consecutive state championship when it faces District 3’s Central Dauphin at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Penn State’s Rec Hall.

“It’s kind of an unspoken thing among us that this has been a long time coming for us,” Schall said about returning to the PIAA championship after last year’s canceled season. “These guys have had to delay their gratification and wait a long time for their opportunity to play. We weren’t really sure what this season was going to look like, but to get back here is a special experience for them.”

The Tigers take a 64-match winning streak into Saturday after knocking off Seneca Valley for a fourth time, 3-0, Tuesday in the semifinals. They’ll play a District 3 opponent for the fourth consecutive time in the state final.

Central Dauphin has been on an impressive run through the state playoffs. They were the third-place team out of District 3 but have knocked off three district champions. The Rams took down District 11 champ Parkland in the first round, District 1 champion Penn Ridge in the quarters and District 3 champ Hempfield in the semis.

North Allegheny got a look at the Rams this spring at the Central York Tournament, but there were a few players out of their lineup due to injury.

“They’re a really skilled team with nice offensive balance,” Schall said. “The version we saw (at the Central York Tournament) isn’t what we will see Saturday. They’re a really polished team, and we’ll have our work cut out on Saturday.”

In Tuesday’s win, the Tigers made 13 service errors and had some other unforced hitting errors, which put them down in both the second and third set before they rallied for victory. Schall said his group is mature enough that they can self reflect on mistakes and improve on them. They’ve also shown they can perform when the pressure is on.

Senior outside hitter Michael Mosbacher had several big kills that helped North Allegheny close out the third set against Seneca Valley. Timmy Ditka is a force as a blocker in the middle and an emotional leader on the team. David Sanfillipo, Cole Dorn and Garrett Hrovich also had key kills that were set up by passes from setter Caleb Schall. Ryan Treser served five consecutive points to help North Allegheny come back to win the second set 25-23.

“This entire playoff run has put us against really difficult opponents,” Schall said. “Cumberland Valley was excellent and so was Northeastern and Seneca Valley. This group has played so many tough points, which I think is so valuable. They’ve built some resistance and character.”

If the Tigers can win Saturday, they’ll add to a storied legacy by winning an eighth state title in their 18th appearance in the PIAA championship game.

It’s another big moment for a team that is accustomed to them.

“We talk a lot about a lot of things strategically, but one of our major themes is playing with a sense of joy on the court and realizing that this is about doing something that you love while playing with teammates you love,” Schall said. “If that shines through on Saturday, then we’ll let the chips fall where they may.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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