North Allegheny claims 2nd straight PIAA Class 4A girls volleyball crown

Saturday, November 17, 2018 | 9:18 PM

SILVER SPRING TOWNSHIP — Déjà vu was the theme Saturday night. North Allegheny faced Bishop Shanahan in the PIAA Class 4A girls volleyball finals for the second year in a row.

Although the location was different, as were several of the players, the result was the same as North Allegheny blitzed the Eagles in three straight sets to win the championship 25-15, 25-23, 25-20.

The Eagle Dome at Cumberland Valley High School was the setting, but the way the Tigers played, it wouldn’t have mattered where they played. It was small crowd, but an energetic student section from Bishop Shanahan kept the energy level up.

Defending state champion North Allegheny (23-0) swept Bishop Shanahan last year 3-0.

“We beat them last year and we also knew they had some big hitters in the lineup,” NA senior Anna Sprys said. “We were very confident coming out of the locker room that if we played our game, we would win the title again. This was so fun, and we practiced hard all season and we focused on each point.

“I think they had some big hitters in the second game and we made some adjustments. We lost some good players from last year, but our younger hitters came through and responded to their hitters. I think Ellena Carmody, Hannah Montross and Hannah Phillips all played really well today.”

Sprys is heading to Binghamton to play next year.

District 1 champion Bishop Shanahan (22-1) started slowly in Game 1 and fell behind 4-1 and later 10-2, prompting a time out from Eagles coach Greg Ashman. They got some good sets and several hits, but they had to battle uphill against a balanced North Allegheny squad. The Tigers got kills from six different players and two huge blocks on the Eagles attack.

Game 2 went back and forth, as the Eagles came out with confidence, and libero Julie Gallagher and hitters Michaela Devlin and Cara Shultz got some key sets to earn some points for the Eagles. It was a game of runs because the Tigers would score three or four points, only to watch the Eagles come back with a similar number.

Allena Carmody served four straight points to take the Tigers from an 18-19 deficit to a 22-19 lead. They led 24-21 only to see Bishop Shanahan earn two straight points on blocks before Paige Morningstar dropped in a dink for the final point for the Tigers. Morningstar did a solid job of dinking or redirecting sets to open spots on the court.

“This has been our goal since last year, and for us seniors this was our last chance,” Carmody said. “We practice with the younger players, and it helps them get better. Paige Morningstar did a great job and really stepped up tonight. We beat them early with our serve and our defense, and in Game 2 we lacked that, but we kept battling and fighting.”

Carmody is heading to Robert Morris to play next year.

“Our program has had a lot of success, but it is a tribute to the kids,” NA coach Heidi Miller said. “They know they need to work all year round on their game. They aren’t going to get better in the 3-4 months with me; they need to be out playing all the time.

“It is very rare that coaches make changes to the lineup in a state championship game, but we did that tonight and some of our younger kids stepped up. We talked in the locker room about the need to play with a higher IQ, a focus and a calmness. They put the pedal to the medal and never stepped down.”

The Tigers jumped out to an 8-3 lead only to fall behind 12-11 in Game 3. They got four huge blocks on the Shanahan bigs to extend the lead to 22-17 before closing the match out.

“We started out slow which wasn’t normal for us, but, tonight, if we started out fast would it have made any difference?” Bishop Shanahan coach Greg Ashworth said. “We were beaten by a solid, well-rounded team that has no weaknesses. Hopefully, with the younger kids we have, we can make a run again.”

“We had some kids who played different roles, and tonight we changed some of those roles,” Miller said. “My daughter Paige was a setter, but tonight we had her as an outside hitter. We have kids who can play many positions, and they showed it tonight. Some of the kids who usually lead us as hitters didn’t do that tonight, but we played as a team tonight. I am very proud of these kids to win back to back state championships.”

Jeffrey Kauffman is a freelance writer.


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