Shaler wins 1st WPIAL boys volleyball championship, ending North Allegheny’s title run

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Thursday, May 25, 2023 | 11:33 PM


The Shaler boys volleyball team arrived at Peters Township High School as Thursday’s Class 2A championship game was taking shape.

The players sat in the bleachers and watched North Catholic capture its first WPIAL title with a sweep of 10-time champion Ambridge.

Shaler then went out and achieved a similar accomplishment at AHN Arena.

The Titans, seeking their first WPIAL championship, also took down a perennial championship contender. And they also did it in sweeping fashion.

Shaler limited miscues and was firing on all cylinders for a majority of its match with section rival and 23-time WPIAL champion North Allegheny.

It all added up to a 3-0 victory, which also ended the Tigers’ quest for a sixth-straight WPIAL crown.

“We came in so focused and ready to play,” junior outside hitter Logan Peterson said. “I think we saw (North Allegheny) about seven times between tournament and (section) matches. We knew that if we just went out there and played our game with strong passing and serve-receive, we would be in good shape. It was an all-around great game. We just went out there and executed.”

The final hit for the final point of the match came from the hand of another Logan – junior middle blocker Logan Schimmel.

Part of a strong hitting and blocking group at the net that also included senior outside hitter Joey Gannon and junior outside hitter Zac Wurzer, Schimmel’s kill at the net at match point, his only kill of the game, finished off a 25-19 win in a third set that saw the Titans lead by as many as 10 points (19-9).

“It was the best feeling in the world, knowing it was my job for that last point to put the ball away,” Schimmel said of his title-winning hit. “I wanted to make sure that NA wouldn’t have the chance to get another point or make it closer.”

Schimmel saw the ball hit the floor and then turned around to see his teammates flood the court in celebration.

“We had been battling with them all season, and there was some familiarity there,” Shaler coach Paul Stadelman said. “My guys came in focused and relaxed. They knew what they wanted to do to execute their game plan, and I think they did it really well. They believed in themselves and believed in what the coaches wanted from them.

“I am extremely proud to be their coach and to be the coach with this community of support. The bleachers were filled, and we had so many in the student section. I had alumni all the way back from 2012 on up coming back to watch these guys and support them. They all laid the ground work. The whole middle school team was here. It was just a great atmosphere.”

Shaler set itself up for victory with a 25-12 win in the first set and a 25-22 victory in the second.

Now, the Titans and North Allegheny will turn their attention to the PIAA playoffs in 10 days.

First-round matches are June 6.

“We’re going to come back to practice and remain as focused as we were for the WPIAL playoffs and the championship game,” Schimmel said. “We have another goal in mind to win a state title. We just have to take it one game at a time.”

Shaler will face District 3’s fourth-place team in the first round of states.

North Allegheny saw its WPIAL title streak halted, but the Tigers’ state championship streak is intact at four straight. The Tigers begin their quest for a fifth in a row against the District 3 runner-up.

Shaler swept NA in section play. A fourth meeting between the teams would come in the state semifinals June 13.

“With everyone on the team as fully invested as they are, there’s a lot of hurt there that we weren’t able to win it,” Tigers coach Dan Long said. “But we have the chance to continue to compete in the state tournament, and everyone will be 0-0. It doesn’t really matter what happened up to that point.

“We could see Shaler again, but we have to earn it. We’re going to have a very tough matchup in the first round against someone like Cumberland Valley or Central York. But we’ve had success in tournament play against those teams, so we have a chance to continue our stretch.”

Shaler came out hot and took a 6-0 lead in the first set, which prompted a North Allegheny timeout.

The Tigers used a 7-4 run after the timeout to close to within three, but 10-7 was as close as NA would get.

Shaler was fueled by several strong hits from Wurzer, Gannon and Peterson.

It was Wurzer and Gannon who put down the final two points of the set for the Titans, who pulled away for the 25-12 victory.

Shaler held a four-point lead on eight occasions in the second set, including at 19-15 when a long rally went the Titans’ way as North Allegheny hit the ball beyond the end line and out of play.

The final four-point lead was at 24-20 before the Tigers rallied to 24-22 on consecutive hits from 6-foot-7 senior middle blocker Varun Kaveti.

Kaveti finished with nine kills for the Tigers.

North Allegheny held serve hoping to continue its rally, but a service attempt by sophomore Matthew LeMay didn’t make it over the net, and the Titans had a 25-22 win for a 2-0 lead in the match.

Peterson tallied eight kills to lead Shaler in the set. He finished the match with 24.

NA senior hitter Jax Wilhite led his team with 10 kills. He had four down the stretch in the third set as he attempted to keep the Tigers alive.

“Shaler blocked incredibly well,” Long said. “Their hitters were on. (Peterson) was unstoppable. Going into his last swing, he didn’t have an error. His only error came on match point. Twenty-three or 24 kills with just one error is incredible. No one does that.

“We just couldn’t start any of the sets with any momentum. We were down five, six or seven points, and then we tried hard to dig out of it. We had good stretches of play through the middle and late parts of the set, but when you are starting at 7-1 or 6-1, you’re racing to 25, and they’re racing to 19. It makes the situation against a really good team like Shaler that much more difficult. They felt like a juggernaut tonight. Everything they did, they did well.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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