In another ‘slugfest’ between rivals, Shaler tops North Allegheny to repeat as WPIAL boys volleyball champs

Thursday, May 23, 2024 | 11:40 PM

When they met in the regular season, top-seeded Shaler and No. 2 North Allegheny split a pair of matchups.

When they squared off in the WPIAL Class 3A boys volleyball finals Thursday at AHN Arena at Peters Township High School, they battled all night.

When it all was over, the Titans (16-1) emerged with a 3-1 win over the Tigers (13-2) in a rematch of last year’s title game.

“That was an exciting match,” said Shaler coach Paul Stadelman. “North Allegheny fought hard. I’m so proud of my guys. I can’t tell you the time and effort they’ve put in.”

“Definitely a lot of energy and momentum going into tonight’s match,” said Shaler senior setter Zach Rosenwald. “We had a lot of expectations, and I think we fulfilled them this year.”

Rosenwald and fellow senior middle blocker Dante Palombo were in sync the entire way for the Titans. Rosenwald finished with 30 assists and Palombo had 14 kills and seven blocks.

“In the past year, we’ve developed great chemistry, and playing club volleyball together definitely helped,” said Palombo, who went into this championship game looking for redemption after he felt he played poorly in last year’s title game.

“Last year, I didn’t fulfill the expectations I set for myself. This year, I came out with a lot of intensity and fire and I really wanted to go at North Allegheny,” added Palombo.

“Dante stepped up in this moment,” said Stadelman. “Having a second opportunity, he was going to make sure he had the opportunity to play a great game. He was go-to when we needed him.”

Senior outside hitter Logan Peterson added eight kills and three digs while fellow seniors Peyton Planz and Logan Schimmel each had five kills. Senior defensive specialist Cam Miller added 16 digs.

“Cam made the biggest plays at the biggest times for us,” added Stadelman. “He’s always fundamentally sound. He’s quiet, not flashy, and probably doesn’t get the attention he deserves.”

The Titans followed their specialist, played very sound and did not commit too many mistakes.

“Shaler’s a skilled and disciplined team and they always compete well,” said North Allegheny coach Dan Long. “I loved the competitiveness of the match, and I liked the way our guys battled. We rose to the occasion.”

North Allegheny kept pace with Shaler throughout the first and second sets as each team traded points. The Titans closed out the first set on an eight-point run for a 25-19 win.

In the second set, the Titans jumped out to a 13-7 lead and it grew to 18-11 before the Tigers clawed back after a timeout. North Allegheny rattled off five straight points before the teams went into more back-and-forth play before the Shaler took the set 25-23.

“At times, our execution held us back,” said Long. “I don’t think we did a real good job at blocking tonight. When we won at our place over Shaler earlier in the year, we handled them with our blocking. We weren’t as precise in timing and weren’t well located at times and that made a difference.”

Tigers sophomore outside hitter Will Robertson led the team with 19 kills, senior setter Nicolas Carioto had 12 assists, and senior defensive specialist Will Hahn had 12 digs.

In the third set, Shaler jumped out to a 10-6 lead, but North Allegheny stormed back with urgency to take a 12-11 advantage behind four points off serves from Carioto. Shaler’s Peterson stopped the streak with a kill.

Shaler began having trouble setting up its kills. Multiple times in the set, the Titans were called for net violations, giving points to North Allegheny, which expanded its lead to 19-15. The Tigers took the set 25-19 on an emphatic block by junior Garen White.

“That was a slugfest. Either team could have won it,” said Stadelman. “I really have to give credit to my players, who stepped up and made the players they needed to for us to win.

The fourth set was once again back and forth as Shaler was looking to close out the match and North Allegheny wasn’t going away without a fight. The Titans started to get some breathing room with a 15-10 lead before North Allegheny called a timeout.

Once again, the Tigers came roaring back out of a timeout, cutting the Titans lead to 18-16.

After a terrific point that saw each team’s defensive specialist make three digs, the Tigers cut the Shaler lead to 19-18 after a nice set by Carioto and a kill from Robertson.

However, the Titans found their groove as Rosenwald and Palombo connected again to seal a 25-22 victory.

Both teams will now head into the state playoffs, and with their talent, there’s a good chance they may see each other again. Long relishes the opportunity.

“If we take care of what we need to take care of, we have the opportunity to face them again this year,” said Long. “I would love to get the time to prepare and face them once more, and so would our guys.”

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