Seton LaSalle captures program’s 1st WPIAL boys volleyball championship

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Wednesday, May 26, 2021 | 9:36 PM


A first-time WPIAL champion was crowned as North Catholic and Seton LaSalle met Wednesday to decide the Class AA boys volleyball title at Fox Chapel.

The teams had split two nonsection matches in the regular season. The rubber match went the way of the Rebels.

Paced by a dominant performance from 6-foot-7 senior hitter Nathan Zini, Seton LaSalle won the first two games and held off a comeback attempt from the Trojans to claim the program’s first WPIAL championship.

“This is so special for us,” said Zini, a St. Francis (Pa.) commit. “For us seniors who lost in this game (to Ambridge) two years ago, it really stung. Then we lost last year to covid. To come back and do what we love to do, which is play volleyball and have the chance to compete for a championship, it’s amazing. We worked so hard for this.”

The top seed in the Class AA bracket, Seton La Salle defeated Plum 3-0 in the quarterfinals and Hopewell 3-1 in the semifinals to advance to the title game.

The Rebels won Game 1, 25-16, and Game 2, 25-18, before North Catholic rallied to take Game 3, 25-21.

The Trojans led for most of Game 4 and held a 20-16 advantage before Seton La Salle rallied to claim nine of the final 12 points of the game to win 25-23 and close out the title victory.

“I knew that (North Catholic coach) Stacie (Ball) had those kids prepared,” Seton La Salle coach John Lawrence said. “We had played them twice already. We are familiar with each other. We knew what they were going to do, and they knew what we were going to do. We knew it was going to be a tough battle.”

Both teams now will turn their attention to the PIAA playoffs, set to begin next Tuesday against opponents to be determined.

Seton LaSalle will face the runner-up from District 10, while North Catholic will take on the champion from District 6 or 9.

“North Catholic is super, well-drilled and are a good ball-control team,” said Zini, who scored 42 points for the Rebels between kills and other hits the Trojans were not able to return. “They serve smart and tough. We knew we had to be at our best.”

Seton LaSalle overcame three early service errors to build its largest lead of Game 1 — 12 points at 21-9 — before finishing off the game.

Seton La Salle came out strong in Game 2 and built a 5-0 lead. North Catholic played even with the Rebels over the rest of the game but was not able to pull any closer than four points.

Zini capped the Game 2 victory with his eighth kill of the game.

Despite falling into a 2-0 hole, North Catholic came out strong in Game 3 and built an 8-3 lead.

Seton LaSalle responded with a 7-2 run to get back even at 10-10. But the game belonged to the Trojans.

Kills from junior Andrew Ubinger and senior Domenic Rivetti down the stretch, and a final hit at the net from Ubinger on the deciding point, closed out the 25-21 win to close the deficit to 2-1.

Ubinger led North Catholic with 15 kills. Trojans senior outside hitter Richard Kaminski added nine kills.

“We had a great practice (Wednesday), a light practice for an hour to prepare,” Ball said. “We just seemed to come out a little flat. We knew that 95 percent of the sets went to Zini, and we kind of switched our defense around, but we still weren’t picking things up. They kind of put it together in the third set. The four set was ours, but we just lost it right at the end.

“This is our fourth year in the WPIAL, and last year doesn’t even count. We’ve been blessed with great teams and have made the WPIAL playoffs all three seasons. This time, we took it two (matches) further. We’ve never made it this far. But (Seton LaSalle) played a great match and they deserved the victory.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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