In classic battle of evenly matched rivals, North Allegheny tops Seneca Valley to win 5th straight volleyball crown

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Thursday, May 26, 2022 | 12:33 AM


At first glance, moments after North Allegheny outlasted Seneca Valley in their marathon WPIAL Class 3A boys volleyball championship match Wednesday night at Robert Morris’ UPMC Events Center for its fifth consecutive title, nobody flinched.

If ever there was a competition where essentially nobody was a loser, this was it.

“There’s such a fine line in terms of who won this championship,” North Allegheny coach Dan Schall said in the aftermath of No. 2 seed North Allegheny’s 3-2 victory.

With the teams tied after four games, the only question remaining was how long would the fifth and deciding game go?

Turns out it went for a bit longer than most.

Cole Dorn finished with 25 kills and three blocks and Jack Wilhite added 12 kills to lead North Allegheny over top-seeded Seneca Valley on scores of 25-23, 21-25, 22-25, 25-17 and 21-19.

Fifth games in a best-of-five match typically are played to 15. But because teams are required to win by two points, the show had to go on.

“This is about as intense as it gets,” Seneca Valley coach Brett Poirier said. “It’s tough. They’re a great team, and so are we.”

North Allegheny has won four consecutive PIAA Class 3A championships as well. The Tigers beat Seneca Valley in the 2021 semifinals.

For nearly the entire time in the deciding game, the teams were trading points. A close inbounds call in favor of North Allegheny foiled Seneca Valley’s best chance to claim the match and prolonged the night just a bit longer.

When North Allegheny (14-1) finally strung together the final two points, the Tigers rushed to their adoring fan section and celebrated yet another championship.

“He’s sad right now,” Schall said, gesturing to the opposite end of the court, where Poirier and the Raiders were processing the moment. “And quite honestly, I’m sitting here thinking, ‘No one deserves to lose this match. It’s kind of a tie.’ The line of winning and losing is so, so small and it could go either way any time we play them.”

Both teams already had qualified for the PIAA playoffs by reaching the WPIAL final.

“I’m sure we’ll see them again in the semifinals of states, just like last year,” Poirier said. “That’s what (Schall) said to me when he shook my hand: ‘I’ll see you in a week.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, you probably will.’”

On the floor — sitting, thinking, half-smiling — sat Seneca Valley’s Coleman McDonough, the UCLA recruit, who tried rallying his team throughout the match with animated prodding and celebration.

“We left it all out there,” he said. “We were just trading blows. Not one team is better than the other. Just have to press harder, work harder.”

Nathan DeGraff, a Lewis (Ill.) commit, led Seneca Valley (17-2) with 19 kills.

Dorn, a St. Francis (Pa.) commit, was celebrating with family and friends near the North Allegheny end zone, when a visitor asked how it felt to win a match like this.

“No question, this was a tie,” he said. “There aren’t many high school teams you see like this, so it’s a great opportunity to get my feet wet (for the college level). I 100 % expect to see those guys again.”

The teams split their two regular-season matches, accounting for their only losses.

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