North Allegheny volleyball expects another battle against Bishop Shanahan in PIAA final

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Thursday, November 15, 2018 | 10:18 PM


Paige Miller remembers the amount of preparation the North Allegheny girls volleyball team put in before a match against Bishop Shanahan around this time last year.

Film study, plus a Tigers’ team firing on all cylinders, swept Bishop Shanahan to win its first PIAA Class AAA volleyball championship since 1994. Now, Miller and North Allegheny will have the same challenge ahead of them to win the school’s fifth state title.

At 6 p.m. Saturday at Cumberland Valley High School, the Tigers once again will face off against undefeated Bishop Shanahan (23-0) for the PIAA championship.

“They want it just as much as we do,” Miller said. “It will be a rematch to see if they improved as much as we worked to improve this season.”

Few things have slowed down North Allegheny, which has won 46 straight matches and has yet to play a five-set match this season. Five Tigers — outside hitter Paige Miller, setter Abby Miller, setter Paige Morningstar and middle hitter Anna Sprys — were named first-team All-WPIAL.

Sprys and Allena Carmody, who was named second-team All-WPIAL as a libero, recently signed to play at Robert Morris and Binghamton (N.Y.), respectively.

Even with a loaded lineup, the Tigers haven’t gotten caught up in the statistics.

“They are very business-like in what they do,” Tigers coach Heidi Miller said. “I ask them all the time ‘Do you even know how many wins in a row we’ve had?’ Sometimes, one or two of them will come up with 46, 47, 48, something like that. They don’t think about those things. They don’t let an opponent faze them.”

Bishop Shanahan has its share of athletes, as well. Alysa Wright, a senior middle blocker, will be playing at Bryant. Outside hitter Cara Shultz, who led the Eagles with 13 kills and 11 digs in the semifinals against Parkland, was injured last season and didn’t play in the state finals.

What is staring at Paige Miller from across the net isn’t something she thinks too much about. The Tigers’ focus is on what they can do.

“We work in practice each day to improve each of our skills, even the little things that make a big difference,” Paige Miller said. “When we go out and play teams all across the board, we are seeing teams that are skilled and struggle a little bit. We focus on our own side before anything else. Working on that gives us the feeling of getting things done and doing what we do best.”

North Allegheny will have its opportunity to showcase its skills against a motivated Eagles’ squad.

Bishop Shanahan won’t want to be victim to another North Allegheny sweep.

“I don’t expect that this year,” Heidi Miller said. “I think it will be a battle. I know they are a number of kids on the team that were on the floor last year when we played them. They match up well with us. We know we are going to have to bring it and be polished, good and feisty.”

NA in the PIAA finals

Year, Opponent, Result

1984, Plum, L 2-0*

1992, Norwin, W 2-0

1993, Plum, W 2-1

1994, Baldwin, W 2-0

2009, Allentown Central Catholic, L 3-2

2017, Bishop Shanahan, W 3-0

*In 1984, the PIAA held championships in the spring and fall. The Tigers were the spring runner-up.

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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