North Allegheny answers challenge from Pine-Richland, rolls into WPIAL volleyball finals

Wednesday, November 1, 2023 | 10:30 PM

Pine-Richland gave North Allegheny a stern test in the second set of Wednesday’s WPIAL Class 4A girls volleyball semifinal and the Tigers responded like six-time defending state champions.

Faced with the prospects of a squared-up match, Jamie Frisco had a pair of kills and Kyra Schmidt served a crucial ace to help the Tigers fend off the Rams, 26-24.

It was a critical sequence in what turned out to be a 3-0 sweep for the top-seeded Tigers over the fourth-seeded Rams at Fox Chapel.

With the win, the Tigers (15-1) clinched a spot in the WPIAL Class 4A championship match for a seventh consecutive season, where they’ll face No. 3 Canon-McMillan at 5 p.m. Saturday at Peters Township’s AHN Arena.

“I’m just really happy for our group because we graduated seven seniors that all played for us last year,” North Allegheny coach Russ Hoberg said. “We have another amazing senior class, but they haven’t had as many opportunities on the court until this year. For them to go out and prove they have what it takes as well is really cool.”

North Allegheny breezed through the first set, 25-15. The Tigers used a 15-7 run to pull away. Marin Dunaway, Frisco and Molly Robertson had three kills apiece in the set.

The Tigers (15-1) built a small lead again in the second set, but this time Pine-Richland stuck right with them and eventually took a 22-20 lead on a kill by Piper Vogel.

“The second set was by far our best set of the match,” Pine-Richland coach Angela Seman said. “In the other two, I think we played hard at times, but the second set was Pine-Richland volleyball.”

After a North Allegheny service error, Pine-Richland was ahead 23-21 and was two points away from tying the match, but Frisco had a kill and a swing that careened off a Pine-Richland block attempt on consecutive points to tie the match. Then, Schmidt served her ace to put the Tigers ahead 24-23. Isabelle Hoppe responded with a kill that tied the match again, but Dunaway gave the Tigers the lead right back with a kill.

Avery Butcher served a ball that bounced off a couple of Rams before Tiffany Gathers made a desperate attempt to hit it back over the net, but it went out of bounds and North Allegheny captured the set.

“They have girls that haven’t necessarily played, because half of their starting lineup is new, but they’ve been around the program long enough,” Seman said. “We have great girls with great talent, but most of our lineup is made up of freshmen and sophomores, so they definitely won on the maturity side of the game.”

Frisco had 10 kills, four of which came in the critical second set.

“She’s a leader for us,” Hoberg said. “She’s been a staple for us on the right side. From a volleyball talent perspective, she’s awesome and from an emotional leadership standpoint, she’s been great for us all season. The girls look to her, and for her to come up big was huge.”

The Tigers closed out the match with a 25-19 win in the third set.

Jordan Frisco, Jamie’s twin sister, clinched match point with an ace.

Pine-Richland and North Allegheny faced off for the seventh time in the last two years. The Rams beat the Tigers in last year’s WPIAL championship.

Though the Rams fell short of defending their WPIAL title, they rebounded from a 2-5 start to finish 13-6 and one game shy of reaching a second consecutive district final.

Pine-Richland graduates four seniors in Sofia Morse, Kaylee Oglan, Sydney Sevagno and Macey Hayes, but returns most of its lineup for next season.

“We are losing four seniors that were big parts of our team, but I told the girls coming back that we have to put our heads down and grind to be ready for next season,” Seman said. “I told them to work to get better in club and be ready to work really hard this summer.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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