North Allegheny reclaims its place atop WPIAL Class 4A girls volleyball

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Saturday, November 4, 2023 | 9:01 PM


After avenging its loss to Pine-Richland in last year’s WPIAL Class 4A championship earlier this week, the North Allegheny girls volleyball team reclaimed its throne with the program’s fifth district title in the last seven years.

Top-seeded North Allegheny (16-1) defeated No. 3 Canon-McMillan (15-4) in four sets, 25-21, 13-25, 25-13, 25-23, at AHN Arena at Peters Township on Saturday evening.

In a back-and-forth fourth set, the Tigers held off Canon-McMillanm aided by a net interference call against the Big Macs to give North Allegheny a 24-23 lead and a chance to serve for the championship.

“I was really proud of our group,” North Allegheny Russ Hoburg said. “We had seven seniors graduate last year. We have a ton of seniors this year, so it’s their time to shine. They got an opportunity to do that. It feels good to win after losing last year and losing to Canon-McMillan in 2019. But Canon-Mac is a good team.”

Canon-McMillan jumped out to an 18-12 lead, but the Tigers chipped away and outscored the Big Macs 13-3 to take the first set.

“Obviously it’s nice to be up 1-0 because it takes a little of the pressure off, but we’ve been down in sets and matches before, but they’ve responded in the right way,” Hoburg said.

Dropping the first set didn’t seem to faze the Big Macs as they jumped out to a 19-8 lead in the second set and eventually tied up the match.

“I don’t think they ever stopped,” Canon-McMillan coach Sheila Mitchell said. “We always say next play, next game, next set. They did and they came out firing. A first-set loss is huge. In a lot of scenarios, the team on the losing side thinks they are out. We never think we are out, and I think that’s an advantage we have.”

Then it was Tigers turn to regain control of a game as a 12-3 lead set the tone for the third set, and it was closed out by a senior outside hitter Marin Dunaway kill.

Dunaway finished with 11 kills.

Senior setter Avery Butcher led the Tigers with 17 digs. Freshman Molly Robertson finished with 19 assists, and senior middle back Ariana Schiller had 14 assists.

This was the Tigers’ ninth WPIAL title, which is third-most in WPIAL history. This was North Allegheny’s seventh consecutive trip to the WPIAL Class 4A championship as the Tigers finished runners-up in 2019 and 2022.

The Tigers’ win also avenges North Allegheny’s loss to the Big Macs in the 2019 WPIAL 4A championship match in which Canon-McMillan stunned two-time defending champion North Allegheny, 3-2, ending the Tigers’ 65-match winning streak.

Sophomore outside hitter Natalie Carr led the Big Macs with 18 kills and seven digs. Senior setter Josie Carter finished with 22 assists and senior setter Olivia Gross had 11 assists.

Senior liberio Julia Murdy finished with 13 digs. Junior middle hitter Abby Tucker finished with 13 kills.

North Allegheny will face McDowell in the first round of the PIAA playoffs Tuesday with sites and times to be determined.

“It’s great to play in matches like this that are big and that are high stakes going into the state tournament,” Hoburg said. “We have to take care of our business obviously, but I feel like we might see Canon-Mac again.”

Canon-McMillan will face State College in the first round of the state playoffs Tuesday.

“Keep your head up,” Mitchell said. “A new season starts today. We are going to states. We aren’t over yet. We fought for every point. We didn’t break. We didn’t make a ton of errors. We got to forget about those. It’s new a season.”

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