North Allegheny boys volleyball too much for Penn-Trafford

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Tuesday, May 23, 2023 | 10:29 PM


North Allegheny has built a dynasty in the WPIAL in boys volleyball.

The Tigers have won 16 of the past 19 Class 3A titles and will be looking for their 17th in 20 tries after advancing to the finals Tuesday with a 3-1 victory against Penn-Trafford in the semifinals at Fox Chapel.

North Allegheny, which has won 22 WPIAL titles overall, will face Shaler on Thursday at Peters Township. Shaler defeated Canon-McMillan, 3-0, by the scores of 25-16, 25-23 and 25-21.

Penn-Trafford will battle Canon-McMillan for third place at a site, date and place to be announced.

The Tigers dominated the first two games against the Warriors, winning 25-12 and 25-19. Penn-Trafford avoided the sweep by winning Game 3 25-21, but the Tigers took Game 4, 25-14.

North Allegheny used the strong play of senior hitter Jax Wilhite, who overpowered the Warriors with numerous kills. He also had help from junior Scott Gaertner and senior Varun Kaveti.

“He was the difference,” Penn-Trafford coach Jim Schall said about Wilhite. “I was hoping we could control him, but we didn’t. I felt we did a good job against the others.

“They are a solid team and a very tough matchup. They cut down some of our offense, and we had some guys who didn’t come through.”

Seniors Daniel Tarabrella and Andrew Kessler and juniors Brad Heinbaugh and Keith Otto had their hands full against the well-schooled Tigers.

The first game was close until back-to-back kills by Wilhite ignited a five-point run that pushed the Tigers lead to 10-5. The lead eventually stretched out to 15-6 and a couple more kills by Wilhite.

“Jax has done that for us all season,” North Allegheny coach Dan Long said. “He’s a great competitor, and he’s our go-to guy. It’s no surprise that he showed up big for us. We have a lot of faith at what he can do at the net.

“We have a balanced team. It’s not a situation that we have just one stud guy. We have a lot of different guys who can contribute. We had a player on the court (Jeremiah Satcho) that played the entire match that hasn’t played much all season. But this was a match we needed his blocking against Penn-Trafford’s line guys.”

The second game was a lot closer before North Allegheny pulled away midway through to grab a 15-10 lead. Again Wilhite and Gaertner led the way.

Penn-Trafford put North Allegheny on its heels in Game 3 and came away with a 25-21 win behind the strong play of Tarabrella, Kessler and Heinbaugh.

But early mistakes cost the Warriors in Game 4 and the Tigers pulled away for an easy 25-14 win.

“Penn-Trafford has a good team and Jim does a nice job preparing them,” Long said. “It wasn’t as easy as it looked. They battled us.”

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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