Counting down the top stories in WPIAL sports in 2023: Shaler sports enjoyed titanic spring

Wednesday, December 27, 2023 | 11:40 AM

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. 19 through No. 15.

No. 19 – Flying Falcon

When it comes to running for distance, no other athlete in the WPIAL put together the career Jolena Quarzo had upon her graduation from Brownsville in June.

Quarzo capped off her scholastic career by winning the 1,600 and 3,200 meters races at the PIAA state track championships.

In doing so, she became the first WPIAL runner and only the second girl in the state to win the 3,200 three straight years and the 1,600 in back-to-back PIAA championships.

Now running at North Carolina State, Quarzo not only dominated the long races in track, she also won gold at three WPIAL and one PIAA cross country championship races.

No. 18 – A titanic spring

Thanks to historic success in the spring, the Shaler athletic season ended long after classes finished in early June.

It seemed everywhere you turned this past May and June, there was a Titans team winning a district championship and eventually playing for state gold.

Thanks to the hitting and pitching of senior Miguel Hugas, the Titans baseball team won its second WPIAL title in five years and its sixth overall crown.

A few weeks later, an incredible comeback helped Shaler beat Strath Haven, 9-8, to win its second state championship and first in 43 years.

The Titans softball team also was dominant on the diamond.

Shaler finished the regular season 18-0 and reached the WPIAL semifinals before its district title dreams ended with a 5-4 loss to Trinity.

However, the Titans rebounded, beating South Fayette in the consolation game, then beating Central Mountain, Trinity and Armstrong to earn a spot in the PIAA finals.

The dream season ended with state silver as Shaler lost to Northern York in an instant classic in a bang-bang play at the plate, 3-2.

On the hardcourt, the Titans boys volleyball team was also enjoying great success that led to the WPIAL championship match.

There Shaler met a North Allegheny team looking for its sixth straight district title. Instead, it was the Titans pulling off the victory and capturing their first boys volleyball golden trophy.

The Titans continued their success in the PIAA postseason, but the dream of state gold would have to be put on hold as Shaler lost to state power Parkland in the 4A finals.

In all, the three Titans spring programs won two WPIAL championships, one PIAA title and two state runner-up silver trophies.

No. 17 – Union girls, solidarity

The Union girls were driven by gold in the first half of 2023.

It began with the WPIAL girls basketball playoffs as Union defeated Aquinas Academy, 52-35, to win the school’s first district championship.

It continued a few weeks later when, following four state playoff wins, Union defeated Lourdes Regional, 46-29, to earn its first PIAA girls basketball crown.

Then it concluded when the Scotties softball team repeated as Class A champions with a wild victory over previously undefeated Carmichaels, 10-8.

The golden run ended in the PIAA Class A softball state championships when Union fell to Tri-Valley, 6-3.

No. 16 – Washington County proud

It was a historic season for not one, but two schools that captured WPIAL football championship gold for the first time.

Not only did Peters Township in Class 5A and Fort Cherry in Class A win their first titles, they did it with perfect records and they were both led on offense by sophomore quarterbacks.

The Indians made a change at QB to Nolan DiLucia and it paid off handsomely. He was the leading passes in the WPIAL with 3,131 yards and 30 touchdowns, leading Peters Township to a victory over defending 5A champion Pine-Richland in the 5A finals.

The Rangers knew they had something special in quart6erback Matt Sieg after his freshman season. As a super sophomore, Sieg led the WPIAL in rushing with 2,387 yards and also led in district scoring with 43 touchdowns. He was a big part in Fort Cherry’s first title win, beating previously undefeated South Side.

Peters Township and Fort Cherry became the first Washington County schools not named Washington win a WPIAL football title since McGuffey captured 2A gold in 1994.

Both teams advanced to the PIAA championship game but had to settle for state silver.

No. 15 – Black and gold streaks

Two years ago, the second-longest team championship streak in the WPIAL ended when Burrell wrestling lost to Quaker Valley, thus ending its 15-year run as Class 2A team wrestling champions.

The run was only topped by the 20-year title run of the Bethel Park boys swimming teams between 1981-2000.

Well, a new program has climbed the ladder and has tied the Burrell title run.

The North Allegheny girls swimming team won its 15th consecutive WPIAL Class 3A championship. The Tigers have won every year since 2009.

Four other lengthy team championship streaks continued in 2023:

• The North Allegheny boys and girls cross-country teams swept Class 3A gold for a sixth straight year

• The North Allegheny girls volleyball and cross country teams both won their sixth consecutive PIAA state championships

• The Greensburg Central Catholic girls golf team captured its ninth consecutive district championship

• The Penn-Trafford field hockey team earned the 2A championship for an eighth straight year

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