Neighborhood Academy, Shady Side Academy team up in volleyball

Saturday, February 12, 2022 | 11:01 AM

After a successful co-operative experience in football this past fall, Shady Side Academy and The Neighborhood Academy will now pursue a partnership in girls volleyball.

The WPIAL and the PIAA both gave the OK recently for the schools to combine forces starting this with this fall’s schedule.

Shady Side has never sponsored girls volleyball and The Neighborhood Academy did have WPIAL membership through the 2016-17 school year but has competed in the Southwestern Pennsylvania Athletic Association since 2018.

The addition of volleyball will increase the number of girls sports offered by Shady Side to 15.

The combined team will play for at least the next two seasons in Section 5 Class 2A of the WPIAL. The Bulldogs – as both schools are nicknamed – will compete against perennial WPIAL contender Freeport, Apollo-Ridge, Burrell, Deer Lakes, Derry, Ligonier Valley and Valley.

The team will play its home matches at The Neighborhood Academy’s A.J. Palumbo Gymnasium in the Stanton Heights section of Pittsburgh.

Current TNA coach Shante Wright will remain with the team as an assistant. Meanwhile, both schools will collaborate on finding a head coach to lead the team.

“We are excited to continue to build our relationship with Shady Side Academy,” said Gary Shawley, TNA director of athletics. “Football was a great success, and we wanted to reciprocate Shady Side Academy’s hospitality to extending an invitation for their young women to play volleyball with us.”

Shady Side officials reported sporadic interest in starting a girls volleyball program over the past two decades.

“We are excited to begin the cooperation between Shady Side Academy and The Neighborhood Academy in girls volleyball,” said Shady Side athletic director Sean Simmons.

“This opportunity will allow student-athletes from both schools the opportunity to expand interscholastic sports offerings for girls.”

Responsible for the positive relationship between the two schools is Rev. Thomas Johnson, who graduated from Shady Side Academy in 1973.

Johnson co-founded The Neighborhood Academy in 2001 after serving as a teacher, coach and board member at Shady Side.

The volleyball commitment will last over the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years, after which time the schools will evaluate the co-op and decide whether it continues.

This past fall, the combined football team had a 5-6 overall record, including 2-3 in the Allegheny Conference.

The Bulldogs lost to Sto-Rox in the opening round of the WPIAL playoffs.

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