North Allegheny sweeps past District 3’s Hempfield for PIAA volleyball title
By: Steve Navaroli
Saturday, June 9, 2018 | 5:40 PM
UNIVERSITY PARK — After a disappointing finish a year ago at Penn State's Rec Hall, the North Allegheny boys volleyball team was more than ready for Saturday's PIAA Class 3A championship match.
Finishing second in the state to Central York in 2017 only made the Tigers hungrier to face another District 3 foe, Hempfield, with the 2018 title on the line.
“From the motivational standpoint, tasting this was a driving force,” North Allegheny coach Dan Schall said. “Getting back is a really tough journey. There's so much effort, and so much has to go right for both teams.
Against Hempfield, an outstanding defensive squad, things went right for the Tigers. With its offense clicking on all cylinders, North Allegheny rolled to a championship-winning sweep, 25-20, 25-17, 25-21.
In a match that was more one-sided than expected, the Tigers earned their sixth PIAA volleyball championship when Jake Barbor's kill hit the Rec Hall floor.
“This group of guys is really special,and it was a really good feeling to bring it home,” Barber said.
With the score tied 12-12 in the first set, the Tigers ran off a four-point run as a part of an 8-2 blitz, with three of those coming from big outside hitter Canyon Tuman.
Although the Black Knights pulled within 24-20, Trevor Tresser closed the set with a kill.
With setter AJ Schmidt distributing the ball, North Allegheny opened a 15-11 lead in the second set on a kill from Jason Stiefvater and block from Jeremiah Zemet, one of his five on the day.
The lead grew to 20-13, and the Tigers scored the final five points of the second set on kills from Tuman, Stiefvater, Alex Zubrow and two more from Stiefvater.
“They are so powerful,” Hempfield coach Mike Vogel said of North Allegheny. “Sometimes running into a team like that, there is nothing you can do. We played well the first 10 points of the first game, but their block was intimidating.”
Much like the first two sets, the third was close early, and Hempfield forged an 11-10 lead. However, Tuman, Barber and Stiefvater had kills during a five-point run.
The Black Knights scored three in a row, but Zemet got the momentum back, Tuman slammed home a Hempfield dig, Zubrow added another and an error put Tigers led 18-14.
From there, the countdown was on as North Allegheny closed in on a title in their PIAA-leading 16th trip to the finals.
“The program is really special to have this consistency,” Schall said. “I probably get a disproportionate amount of credit. There is a consistency with how we do things.”
Schmidt posted 33 assists for the Tigers
“AJ really dishes well,” Schall said. “Our offense is balanced, which makes us very difficult to defend. I think our preparation was fantastic.”
Added Schmidt: “Not only are they great hitters, but they are my best friends. They make me look better with the way they put the ball away.”
Said Tuman, who led the way with 16 kills: “You've got to have confidence. Time after time, over and over in practice. I couldn't ask for a better setter. AJ puts the ball in the right spot.”
Steve Navaroli is a freelance writer.
Tags: North Allegheny