North Allegheny notebook: Tigers advance to 5th straight volleyball final

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Saturday, November 20, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Already a four-time defending state champion, the North Allegheny girls volleyball team earned a trip to the PIAA finals for the fifth year in a row after defeating rival Shaler, 3-1, in a PIAA Class 4A semifinal Nov. 6 at Fox Chapel.

The Tigers rallied from a 25-19 loss in the first set to win 29-27, 25-18 and 25-18.

This was a rematch of the WPIAL finals that NA also won.

“I’m just happy for them,” said NA coach Russ Hoburg, a first-year head coach who won four titles as an assistant. “They’ve worked so hard all season. I’m pumped that they get a chance to defend their title — their four-time title.”

North Allegheny (19-1) was to play District 11 champion Parkland in the finals Nov. 20 at Cumberland Valley High School. No girls team has won five consecutive PIAA titles since Norwin won eight in a row from 1976-83.

This was the fourth match this season between North Allegheny and Shaler, which share Section 1-4A. NA won three of the four matches, but none came easy. Shaler (18-4) won the first 3-0, and NA won the next three 3-2, 3-2 and 3-1.

“We definitely gave them a run for their money every time they saw us,” Shaler coach Paul Stadelman said. “I don’t think they could look past us. They had to take us seriously. That’s what you want in a high school competition: two teams battling it out and letting the chips fall.”

The second set was particularly tense.

North Allegheny had a 22-13 lead before Shaler rallied back, trying to take a 2-0 set lead. Shaler forced a tie 24-24 and led 25-24 and 26-25, The score was tied again 26-26 and 27-27 before North Allegheny ended the marathon set with a kill by Carissa Treser and an ace by Caroline Curran.

The set win forced a 1-1 tie.

“We always want to be the aggressive team,” Hoburg said. “We never want to be tentative. If we’re going to go out, we’re going to go out swinging. In those tense moments, we talked about rising to the occasions. Swing away. Don’t get tentative because it’s tight. Typically the aggressive team is the one that comes out on top.”

Treser led NA with 12 kills, and Ella Deeter had 11. Mia Tuman added 11 kills, 35 assists and 25 digs. Curran had 33 digs.

NA won the final two sets 25-18 and 25-18.

Football team loses

The North Allegheny football team had its season come to an end in the WPIAL Class 6A semifinals Nov. 12 after a 28-17 loss to Mt. Lebanon.

No. 1 Mt. Lebanon (11-0) got on the board first and refused to relinquish its lead.

Mt. Lebanon’s Eli Heidenreich set the tone early, picking off a North Allegheny pass on the third play of the game and taking it 33 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

The versatile senior was a problem for the No. 4 Tigers (7-5) throughout, as Heidenreich brought a punt back 41 yards for a special teams touchdown. He also rushed for 80 yards on 12 carries.

Quarterback Joey Daniels scored for the Blue Devils on a 31-yard run before exiting at halftime with an injury. Mt. Lebanon’s Connor Young also found his way into the end zone in the first half, returning a fumble 26 yards to give his team a 28-17 team lead that remained unchanged.

Mt. Lebanon running back Alex Tecza rushed for a game-high 121 yards.

It was North Allegheny’s second loss to the Blue Devils this season. This time, however, the Tigers refused to let the gap between the two teams widen.

In the end, coach Art Walker’s team only surrendered one touchdown to a Blue Devils’ offense that was averaging 37.4 points. Though North Allegheny still fell short of its goal of returning to the WPIAL 6A championship game, the team’s performance was far from an overall failure, according to its coach.

“They scored twice on defense and once on special teams. That’s the difference in the ball game,” Walker said.

“I thought our defense played great. We talk about Daniels and Heidenreich and Tecza and the other guys on their team — who else has held them to seven points? We couldn’t put things together offensively or score when we needed to. You can’t do that against good football teams, and that’s a good football team.”

Andrew Gavlik accrued most of the damage for the North Allegheny offense, amassing 60 yards and two rushing scores on 10 carries. Harron Lee booted a 24-yard field goal.

All-state cross country honors

North Allegheny cross country coach John Neff was named the Pennsylvania Track & Field Coaches Association boys and girls coach of the year last week for the second straight season.

The Tigers swept the PIAA Class 3A titles earlier this month in Hershey.

Eva Kynaston and Wren Kucler represented the NA girls on the PTFCA all-state first team. Scott Nalepa and Jack Bertram were second-team selections from the NA boys team.

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