North Allegheny boys volleyball wins another Seneca Valley showdown, makes state finals

Tuesday, June 8, 2021 | 8:35 PM

Before the PIAA tournament started, Michael Mosbacher and his North Allegheny boys volleyball teammates knew if they were going to play for a third consecutive state championship, they would likely have to beat Seneca Valley for a fourth time.

Like the three previous meetings, the Raiders proved to be a difficult opponent, but in crunch time, North Allegheny rose to the occasion.

The Tigers scored the last five points in the second set to steal a win and staved off set point three times in the third before prevailing in a 3-0 sweep of the Raiders in the PIAA Class 3A semifinals Tuesday evening at Fox Chapel.

“We’ve been working all year for this,” Mosbacher said. “We had been preparing for Seneca Valley specifically all year, because they are the real deal. We just wanted to beat them so bad.”

North Allegheny (18-0) won its 64th consecutive match, while Seneca Valley finished 20-4 with all four loses coming to the Tigers.

The Tigers will try for a state three-peat at 1:30 p.m. Saturday when they meet Central Dauphin in the PIAA finals at Penn State’s Rec Hall.

“It’s special, and it’s a long time coming,” North Allegheny coach Dan Schall said. “This group was eager to defend it last year, and they’ve had to wait a long time to do it.”

After taking the first set 25-19, North Allegheny trailed for the majority of the second and was down 23-20 when David Sanfillipo got a kill to start a 5-0 run.

Timmy Ditka added a kill that was sandwiched between two hitting errors, and Caleb Schall had a block at the net that closed out the set for the Tigers. Ryan Treser served the final five points for the Tigers.

“It’s been like that all year. They win, but it’s close,” Seneca Valley coach Brett Poirier said. “We’ve lost 25-23 to them a lot of times. You have to get over that hump. That’s why they are the state champs. They’re good. We had to have our A game and we were close, but it was about an A-minus.”

Schall credited much better net play from the Tigers with helping them pull off a sweep after defeating the Raiders 3-1 in the WPIAL championship.

“Our blocking was exceptional,” Schall said. “We were very aware of their hitting percentage in previous matchups and took it as a personal challenge to defend it better, and that starts with our blocking. We got a lot of touches early, and that can really alter a game.”

The Raiders played without starting setter Evan Howley, who was out due to injury.

Seneca Valley and North Allegheny exchanged the lead in the third set four times. The Raiders had set point at 24-23, 25-24 and 26-25, but the second point to close the set eluded them. Mosbacher, a St. Francis (Pa.) recruit, had six kills and a block in the final set, including one when Seneca Valley had set point. He had another kill that gave North Allegheny a 28-27 lead before a hitting error by the Raiders ended the match.

“(Mosbacher) had some really, really good swings, and we’re going to need more of that from him,” Schall said. “Not just in crunch situations, but in the ordinary situations where it’s the middle of the game. He took a challenge personally to get better approaches on his swings, and it resulted in some kills.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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