Senior class carries Shaler volleyball to historic heights

Sunday, November 21, 2021 | 11:01 AM

Paul Stadelman wasn’t sure if the message he was trying to sell might end up in the bargain bin.

Five matches into his stint as the Shaler girls volleyball coach, the Titans had zero victories.

The funk didn’t even last half a season. Something snapped into place.

The Titans dug in around Stadelman’s message of being a scrappy, defensive team that would make their opponents work up a sweat. Shaler won seven straight matches and reached the WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinals that season.

The Titans seniors, who were freshmen then, have never slowed down, compiling a 54-18 record. That progression culminated this season with the program’s first run to the PIAA semifinals, eventually bowing to North Allegheny, 3-1, Nov. 16 at Fox Chapel.

“Honestly, they believed in the process and the results have made them buy in to playing defense and playing a scrappy game,” Stadelman said. “Once they reaped the rewards and won games, it made things a lot easier. I think they like knowing they outwork teams.”

The Titans six senior seniors included Sierra Ricci, Kayleigh Newland, Tia Bozzo, Brooke Schweitzer and Mia Schubert.

Schubert doesn’t think there was anything specific that led to the Titans’ slow start when she was a freshman. With how many young players they had in the lineup, there were many distractions.

“I don’t know if it was his coaching style or not. It was that high school is much different than middle school,” Schubert said. “He really cares about everyone. He pushes you hard, and it can be hard to get used to that. He wants the best for us and knows what we’re capable of. If you are underperforming, he will try to get you to the level you can play to.”

The Titans, who finished 17-3 after losing to the Tigers in the state semis, didn’t make things easy on anyone. Shaler beat North Allegheny once in the regular season to earn a share of the section title before advancing to the WPIAL finals and being tripped up by the Tigers for the second straight year.

Shaler, which missed out on the state playoffs last year when the PIAA took only conference champions because of pandemic-related restrictions, celebrated its first trip to the state tournament by beating District 10 champion Erie McDowell and District 3 champ Hempfield in the first two rounds.

In the state playoff match with North Allegheny, Schubert had a 13-0 run on serve which allowed Shaler to win the first set 25-19. The Titans then lost three straight sets — including a 29-27 nail biter in the second set that allowed the Tigers to tie the match.

Stadelman believed his team wasn’t rattled by playing their long-time tormentors.

“I think they were hungry, excited, focused and motivated,” Stadelman said. “I like what I saw in practice in how the players and team reacted. I really liked our energy and how they were approaching the match.”

The Titans’ scrappy bunch just couldn’t find a way past juggernaut North Allegheny. While it might not soften the blow of the loss, there is no arguing the progress the team made.

Stadelman and this group of seniors may have stumbled at the start, but they found their way. For the past four years, the Titans haven’t let any opponent off the hook. Any victory over Shaler would have to be through a vigorous effort.

“I definitely think it shows we’ve grown a significant amount,” Schubert said. “Our freshman and sophomore year, I didn’t even think about states. It was about getting through WPIALs. It’s an honor. We’re playing, like, the best of the best teams. The first couple years, we couldn’t make it past the (WPIAL) quarterfinals.”


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