North Allegheny sweeps Bethel Park for 20th WPIAL Class AAA volleyball championship
By: William Whalen
Thursday, May 23, 2019 | 11:21 PM
Bethel Park marched into Fox Chapel gymnasium Thursday night feeling confident that after three cracks at North Allegheny in past Class AAA title games, the Black Hawks might come out victorious against the two-time defending WPIAL and reigning state champion Tigers.
That was not the case.
Top-seeded North Allegheny played a complete match and rolled to their third straight WPIAL title with a 3-0 win over Bethel Park.
“Everyone stood out,” North Allegheny coach Dan Schall said. “I thought the guys really matured on the court tonight psychologically.”
North Allegheny (15-0) will moved into the PIAA Class AAA bracket to play either the District 3 or 6 fifth-place team. Bethel Park (14-1) will face either the District 3 or 6 fourth-place finisher. Both teams will pick up play again Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
“That’s the way volleyball is,” Bethel Park coach Zach Smith said. “A roll here, a bounce there and we’re right in that match. Hat’s off to them, they made the plays that they needed to, and it was hard to key on anybody. They did a real nice job.”
The win marks the Tigers’ 20th WPIAL title in school history.
It was difficult to key on one specific Tigers’ player because they all played at the top of their games. North Allegheny was stout up front and athletic in the back row. Very few balls hit the floor in play.
“The one guy in our stating lineup that wasn’t rewarded with WPIAL honors might have been Grant Jones,” Schall said. “He played with courage, and he sparked us.”
Jones came off the bench to end the Black Hawks’ mini run and tie the first set at 12-12. From the there, both teams battled before Alex Zubrow notched a kill to give the Tigers an 18-17 lead. It was a lead North Allegheny would not give up, and the they held the Black Hawks scoreless the rest of the way for a 25-17 win.
North Allegheny rode the win and momentum into the second set and jumped out to 5-1 lead. Bethel Park’s Kevin Kerr stopped the bleeding with a kill, Mason Bussard added another kill, and a net violation on the Tigers brought the Black Hawks to within striking distance at 5-4.
Bethel Park’s Joshua Sprandle gave his team the lead at 8-7, but the Tigers’ defense didn’t allow for the Bethel Park hitters to gain any consistency. Black Hawks hitting errors didn’t help either. Back-to-back errors gave the Tigers the lead for good at 13-9, and North Allegheny went on to win the second set 25-19.
“(Bethel Park) is really good and a very good team,” Schall said.
The Tigers jumped out to a 8-1 lead to start the third set. Zubrow led the charge with three kills and Ben Mendes added two more to take control of the set. Bethel Park fought its way back to within one point at 13-12 before Schall called a timeout to refocus his players.
“We’re gonna go at it with everything we got, and we’re right up there with the top teams,” Smith said. “They’re just so diverse of an offense. I think we had a good game plan, we just didn’t execute well enough.”
North Allegheny then outscored the Black Hawks, 12-6, the rest of the way to pick up the 25-18 third-set win.
“We’ll enjoy for a day or two, and we’ll switch gears for a bit,” Schall said.
In the third-place consolation game, No. 3 Shaler downed No. 4 Latrobe, 3-0, to advance into the PIAA bracket. The Titans will play either the District 8 or 10 champs Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
William Whalen is a freelance writer.