Trib HSSN girls athlete of the year: NA’s Paige Morningstar caps gold-plated 2-sport career

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Monday, July 12, 2021 | 4:00 AM


What better way to conclude a golden scholastic career than to be named the MaxPreps national high school female athlete of the year?

How about being named the 2020-21 Trib HSSN WPIAL female athlete of the year for a second straight year?

Paige Morningstar may need a Brink’s truck to haul all of her medals and awards to the University of Louisville, where she will continue her education and amazing athletic career.

The recent North Allegheny grad continues the tradition of Tigers winning the HSSN best girls award after Morningstar won it a year ago and former NA teammate Rachel Martindale won it in 2018-19.

She also succeeded in following her two older sisters’ footsteps.

Meg Morningstar was a 2015 graduate of North Allegheny and played volleyball at Notre Dame while Piper Morningstar was a 2018 graduate who started her college basketball career at Radford before transferring to Washington & Jefferson.

The 6-foot Paige is a two-sport stud, dominating in both volleyball and basketball. She will play volleyball at Louisville.

In all, Morningstar helped North Allegheny win three WPIAL and four PIAA girls volleyball championships as well as three district and one state basketball title.

“We aren’t who we are without Paige Morningstar,” North Allegheny coach Spencer Stefko said after the Tigers completed a 27-1 season with WPIAL and PIAA gold. “She would be the first to tell you that she wasn’t very good in December and early January as she shook the rust off from volleyball. But her infectious personality, previous success and the love she showed for this team as a whole had built a group of kids that would follow her into the fires of hell.

“As she came along, so did we, and it was all based on trust, hard work and all the good things that we try to teach through high school athletics.”

Morningstar helped the Tigers to a perfect 18-0 record in volleyball this past fall and from the setter position, she led NA with 715 assists, while adding 97 digs, 91 kills, 41 blocks and 30 service aces.

In basketball, she averaged 11 points and nearly six rebounds per game.

Morningstar took some time for a Q&A.

Back in August, were you worried that there wouldn’t even be a senior season due to the pandemic, especially in volleyball?

I was extremely worried there wouldn’t be a season. Our team had multiple quarantines and shutdown risks which put us all on edge for if we would have the chance to play. However, that fear of the unknown was a blessing in disguise because it pushed us to play like it was the last time we would touch the court, and in the end made us a better team.

How special was it to cap off your NA career by winning WPIAL championships in both volleyball and basketball this past school year?

It was so special to win both WPIAL championships my senior year because the only other year I did that was my freshman year when I did not have as big of a role on either team.

The Tigers won a fourth straight PIAA girls volleyball championship in November, beating Unionville in the finals. How did it feel to win a fourth state volleyball championship?

I get this question a lot and to be completely honest, I never knew what “speechless” felt like until after that game. Every year there was more and more doubt that we would win again, and to be able to prove everyone wrong and lead a young team to another state championship felt like doing the impossible. I could not be more proud of each and every one of those girls for the work they put in every day to make that possible.

Was there a specific highlight or memory from this past volleyball season that stands out?

A specific memory that stands out to me was the fifth set in our state semis game against Hempfield at Altoona. After talking to my team prior to the game, I looked up to my dad in the stands and he gave me a confident look with a thumbs up. That little gesture pushed all of my nerves of possibly playing my last game to the side. I went on to play, in my opinion, one of my best sets of the year.

Same question for the 2020-21 basketball campaign.

The most memorable moment of the basketball season would have to be winning the state championship. I felt like I worked for four years for one game, but it was well worth it in the end. After Lizzy (Groetsch) and I got interviewed, we had a mini celebration in the locker room, just us. Being able to know I helped lead a team to make history with my best friend is the best feeling in the world.

Was there some redemption in winning the PIAA Class 6A girls basketball title after having your shot at state gold ended early last year because of the pandemic?

Yes! We were so committed to finish what we started this season that we made our slogan “whatever it takes.” We all wanted nothing more than to go all the way this year since we were robbed of that opportunity last year.

Did the coronavirus affect your preparation or play during the volleyball and basketball seasons?

The coronavirus was a bigger problem off the court than on for both sports. During the volleyball and basketball season, I had a stronger worry that my teammates were doing the right things off the court in order to stay safe. We were required to wear a mask while playing, but once we were used to them, they did not take away from our play.

How much will you miss playing basketball now that your focus will be volleyball?

I am going to miss basketball more than people think because it was my first sport and has been a huge part of my life. Playing in the Roundball All-Star game was definitely an emotional toll on me, knowing it was my last basketball game ever.

What will you always remember from your days at North Allegheny?

I will remember the relationships I built and the achievements I have accomplished the most from my days at North Allegheny. I have formed connections that will last me a lifetime, as well as been more successful than I ever thought possible. I am so grateful I was brought up in such an amazing community filled with supportive people where I can always call home.

What is the most recent concert you attended? What was your favorite concert?

The most recent concert I attended was Khalid, and I would have to say that that was my favorite too.

Best thing about living in the Pittsburgh area and worst thing?

The best thing about living in Pittsburgh is being so close to the city and never running out of things to do. The worst part is definitely not having an NBA team because that is my favorite professional sport to watch.

Your go-to late night snack?

My go-to late night snack would have to be oatmeal, just because it is a warm, comfort food to me and I eat super healthy.

What is your favorite movie of all time and why?

My favorite movie of all time would have to be “White Chicks.” It is hilarious.

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