North Allegheny wins 3rd straight PIAA girls volleyball championship

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Saturday, November 16, 2019 | 9:52 PM


SILVER SPRING TOWNSHIP — North Allegheny had a tougher road but came out on top in its quest for a PIAA girls volleyball three-peat.

In a rematch of the 2018 PIAA Class 4A championship in which the Tigers swept Bishop Shanahan, North Allegheny went the distance to edge the Eagles, 3-2, in the state title match Saturday at the rocking Eagle Dome at Cumberland Valley. It is the Tigers’ sixth title in program history.

“We knew their outside hitters were good so we needed to figure out where to get other points from,” said North Allegheny coach Heidi Miller, whose team won 19-25, 25-22, 25-19, 12-25, 16-14. “This team has seen some highs and some lows this year and you just saw that in this match, but somehow we fought through it.”

In the fifth and deciding game, Shanahan jumped out to a 3-0 lead only to watch the Tigers bounce back. The game was tied at 10 and 11, and North Allegheny led 14-13 and had match point. Shanahan got a nice dink from Kelly to tie the game.

The Tigers got to 15-14 before a Paige Miller dunk gave her team and her mom the victory.

“I was so happy to match my grandfather’s number of state championships,” senior Abby Miller said. “We had confidence, and we just needed to take our time and make plays. This was the best way to go as a senior — to win another state championship.”

North Allegheny (23-1) looked a bit out of sorts in Game 1, allowing balls to drop amid a lack of communication and fell behind 23-19 before calling a timeout.

Bishop Shanahan (23-1) used its height, which is saying a lot when compared with North Allegheny, and led 24-19 before North Allegheny hit one in the net to allow the Eagles a 25-19 win.

Shanahan led Game 2 until the Tigers finally scored five of six points to tie at 18. Hannah Phillips’ kill tied the game at 20 for the Tigers, but a net serve gave the Eagles a 21-20 lead. A dunk by Abby Miller finally enabled the Tigers to grab a 25-22 win, evening the match at one game each.

North Allegheny started to find its hitters in key situations, and Abby Miller, Paige Morningstar and Rachel Burton came up with big plays in the 25-19 win, giving them a 2-1 game advantage. Both teams battled through the game, taking leads of several points in the game.

Shanahan rolled through the fourth game 25-12, never allowing North Allegheny to get into the game. Solid defense set up big hits by the length of Shanahan. Coco and Cara Schultz and Brooke Burns were solid in their team play. Kelly had several key blocks, and Grace Casagrande kept the ball alive on the backline on hits.

Cara Schultz, a Yale commit, was a monster in this match trying to will her team to victory. Younger sister Coco came on late in the match to become a force on the front line.

Shanahan played well enough to win with a large group of underclassmen and size, but a couple of mental mistakes hurt them at inopportune times.

“This is amazing to end my senior year with this group of seniors and the rest of my teammates,” senior captain Madison Curran said. “We knew we just needed to take one point at a time and focus on winning that one and then worrying about the next point. It was great to end our career on a match like that — great competition.”

“This was a great way to go out, but it is tough because it was the last time the three Millers would be on the court at the same time,” coach Miller said.

But at the end of the night, Abby, sister Paige and mom helped North Allegheny go out on top for a third straight season.

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