Counting down the top stories in WPIAL sports in 2023: North Catholic girls add to trophy case

Thursday, December 28, 2023 | 4:14 PM

The 2023 year in WPIAL sports saw a lot of excitement across three seasons.

There was domination on the hardwood and in the pool during the winter sports season and sensational action on the diamonds, hardcourts and tracks in the spring, concluding with greatness on the gridiron, the pitch and around the district hills and valleys.

Some records were broken while others were established. We honored some of the best coaches and said goodbye to some legends.

Join us all week as we look back at the moments that stood out in a thrilling high school sports ride in 2023.

In our year-end tradition, Trib HSSN winds down the year with a daily countdown and a look back at the top 23 WPIAL stories from 2023.

Today, we look at No. 14 through No. 10.

No. 14 – Queen of the court

North Catholic won the WPIAL girls basketball championship in 2023.

That’s not earth-shattering news since the Trojans girls hoops program has won a record 22 district crowns.

What made this one special is it was the 11th championship for head coach Molly Rottmann. It ties her with her North Catholic coach from the 1980’s, legendary coach Don Barth.

North Catholic defeated Blackhawk in the title game, 51-35.

No. 13 – Lancers finally lose

The winning streak that lasted nearly two years and included two WPIAL championships and one PIAA title finally ended in June for the Neshannock softball team.

The Lancers cruised to a second straight district title with a 10-run win over rival Laurel in the WPIAL Class 2A finals, 12-2.

Then, after wins over Penns Valley and Sharpsville, Neshannock lost in the PIAA semifinals to Everett, 9-6. The loss ended a 48-game winning streak.

It was the first loss for the Lancers since falling in the 2021 WPIAL quarterfinals to Ligonier Valley.

No. 12 – Diving dominance

They will be remembered in WPIAL diving history as the golden girls.

Christina Shi of North Allegheny and Maggie Foley of North Catholic concluded a decade of dominance in February when they won the WPIAL Class 3A and 2A diving championships, respectively, for a fourth consecutive year.

Shi followed with her third straight PIAA Class 3A diving gold medal.

No. 11 – A cross country sweep

Back in 1983, Gus Nicholl of Seneca Valley and Fran Berry of West Mifflin South won PIAA cross country championships, marking the first and only sweep of the state boys cross country races.

That was the only time, until this fall.

Forty years after twin gold, a trio of district runners swept the PIAA cross country championships for the WPIAL.

Senior Drew Griffith of Butler won the Class 3A race, senior Ryan Pajak of Ringgold took first place in 2A and junior Jaxon Schoedel of Mohawk won the Class A championship.

It was double gold for all three runners, who earlier won WPIAL championships. It was the third district title for Pajak, the second for Griffith and the first for Schoedel.

Griffith capped off the cross country season by winning a national championship earlier this month.

No. 10 – OLSH title run ends

First, the WPIAL and PIAA boys basketball record 74-game winning streak Our Lady of the Sacred Heart had put together in two-plus seasons ended three days before Christmas when the Chargers lost to Deer Lakes.

Just over two months later, the four-year district championship run came to an end as the Chargers once again fell to the Lancers in the WPIAL Class 3A title game.

Mike Rodriguez guided OLSH to one of the most impressive championship runs in WPIAL boys hoops history, winning four straight Class 2A titles before moving up to 3A for the 2022-23 season.

The district playoff loss was the first suffered by the Chargers since losing in the 2018 Class 2A finals to Sewickley Academy, 63-59.

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