North Allegheny beats Shaler for 7th WPIAL girls volleyball title

Saturday, November 7, 2020 | 7:35 PM

Paige Miller volleyed one ball straight through Shaler Area’s block.

The North Allegheny senior outside hitter also made sure to take her time and search for softer shots into open spaces on the court.

Age and experience guided the Tigers Saturday at Chartiers Valley High School when North Allegheny captured its seventh WPIAL Class 4A volleyball crown in school history by topping section rival Shaler, 3-1 (25-22, 25-19, 23-25, 25-17).

“I know when I was a freshman and looking up to the big dogs on the team, I thought I had to rip every time,” said Miller, who finished with 18 kills. “Now I know a point is a point, a kill is a kill. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tip or a kill. I had fun being a smart player.”

The top-seeded Tigers (15-0) are the three-time defending state champions and have now won the district title in three of the past four seasons. North Allegheny will play either the City League or District 10 champion in the quarterfinals of the PIAA playoffs next Saturday.

Miller believed the Tigers, who lost to Canon-McMillan in the WPIAL final last year, played with more urgency because of the lack of state playoff bids. Due to covid-19 restrictions, only district champions made the state playoffs, so a loss would’ve ended North Allegheny’s season.

“It was redemption for last year,” Miller said. “It doesn’t have to be the same team. We had to prove to ourselves we could do it. There was more pressure on this match because we knew we had to win this match to move on to states.”

Mia Tuman also finished with 18 kills for North Allegheny, while Paige Morningstar had seven kills and two blocks.

The Titans, who were appearing in the finals for the first time, stumbled out of the gates. North Allegheny scored the first three points of the match and 10 of the first 11. The Tigers’ length made it difficult for Shaler to get into its offensive system.

“I think at the start of the match it was a matter of settling in and doing what we did all season long,” Shaler coach Paul Stadelman said. “The hype of the game and a little bit of it being our first time being here we had to shake off jitters a little bit, you saw we can play and hang right with them.”

The Titans (14-2) didn’t take a lead in any set until a North Allegheny attack error put them ahead 14-13 in the third. Mia Schubert, who led Shaler with 16 kills, recorded seven in the third set.

Morgan Gralewski, who recorded 12 kills, scored the winning point for Shaler in the third set. Tigers coach Heidi Miller said North Allegheny was focused on being ready for the Titans’ pace in their attack.

“They are a good ball-handling team,” coach Miller said. “We knew our serve-receive and our defense would have to match theirs. They run a quick offense. We worked on being quicker with our block and being ready to defend.”

In the fourth set, North Allegheny went on an 8-1 run after the score was tied at 11 to pull away. A kill from Paige Miller ended the match and allowed the Tigers to dream of adding a fourth state title.

Heidi Miller was also proud of how this younger group of players continued the winning tradition.

“If you listen to our starting lineup, it was sophomore, sophomore and sophomore,” Heidi Miller said. “I think Paige Miller, Paige Morningstar and Maddie Beer are nice stable, returning kids to the lineup. The rest of the kids are sophomores, and I couldn’t be more proud of those kids for handling that pressure.”

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