What to watch for in WPIAL sports on Oct. 26, 2023: Postseason action in cross country, soccer, volleyball

Wednesday, October 25, 2023 | 11:56 PM

Welcome to one of the busiest days of WPIAL fall sports postseason action on Thrive and Survive Thursday.

There are plenty of quarterfinals matches in boys and girls soccer and girls volleyball, as well as district gold at stake for some of the top area runners.

The 2023 WPIAL cross country championships take place Thursday at White Oak Park in McKeesport.

For the first time since 2018, a Quarzo sister will not win the girls Class 2A individual title.

Gionna Quarzo won district gold in 2019 and her younger sister Jolena captured three straight championships from 2020-2022 before the Brownsville standout graduated in the spring.

Back in an effort to repeat is Mt. Lebanon senior Logan St. John Kletter in 3A and Shady Side Academy senior Chelsea Hartman in A. Both won cross country gold for the first time in 2022.

On the boys side, all three individual champions from a year ago are back.

In 3A, Butler senior Drew Griffith looks to repeat. If successful, it would be the fourth straight year a Butler runner won WPIAL 3A cross country gold. C.J. Singleton captured the title in 2020 and 2021.

Ringgold senior Ryan Pajak and Eden Christian senior Sean Aiken are trying to do one better as they run for their third straight district championship Thursday.

On the team side, North Allegheny hopes to bring out the brooms for a sixth straight year. The Tigers boys and girls teams have swept WPIAL 3A team titles since 2018.

Hampton boys and Montour girls are trying to three-peat in Class 2A while it’s a simple repeat goal for the OLSH boys and Winchester Thurston girls teams in Class A.

Quarters on the pitch

Three brackets will be in the spotlight Thursday in the district soccer playoffs with quarterfinals matches in girls 4A, girls 3A and boys 2A.

The 2023 postseason begins for the eight teams in girls 4A with four 7 p.m. matches.

Top-seed and defending champion North Allegheny (18-0) will host No. 8 Mt. Lebanon (10-6-2).

No. 5 Canon-McMillan (8-6-2) and No. 6 Fox Chapel (10-4-2) did not qualify for the postseason a year ago but are in the playoffs this season.

The Big Macs are on the road against No. 4 Seneca Valley (13-2-1) while the Foxes visit No. 3 Peters Township (14-1-2).

The other 4A girls match has No. 7 Butler (10-6-1) heading south to battle No. 2 Upper St. Clair (15-1).

There were no upsets in the opening round in the girls 3A playoffs with the only higher seed being No. 9 Elizabeth Forward (15-3) shutting out No. 8 Hampton, 2-0. The Warriors now battle top-seeded Mars (15-0) at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The other three 3A quarterfinals are:

• No. 5 South Fayette (12-4-2) visiting No. 4 Thomas Jefferson (17-1) at 7 p.m. The Lions are unbeaten in 11 straight while the Jaguars have won 17 straight.

• No. 7 Montour (13-2-3) travels to No. 2 Plum (16-0-1) at 7 p.m. The only blemish on the Mustangs’ record was a 2-2 tie against the Spartans on Sept. 9.

• Defending champion and No. 3 seed Moon (13-1-2) will host No. 6 Latrobe (13-2) at 7 p.m. The Tigers are unbeaten in their last nine matches while the Wildcats have won five in a row.

On the boys side, a pair of double-digit seeds have found their way to the Class 2A quarterfinals.

No. 14 Hopewell (10-6) stunned No. 3 and defending champion Deer Lakes in Monday’s opening round, 4-0. The Vikings now face another team from Section 2 in No. 6 Shady Side Academy (13-4-1) at 7 p.m.

No. 10 Elizabeth Forward (10-6-1) pulled off the bracket’s other surprise, going on the road and beating No. 7 Knoch, 3-1. The road Warriors now head to Quaker Valley (15-3) to take on the No. 2 Quakers at 7 p.m.

On the left side of the bracket, top-seeded South Park (19-0) will be home to No. 8 Keystone Oaks (12-5) for the third match between these birds of prey. The Eagles swept the Golden Eagles in the regular season, winning 2-0 and 3-1.

No. 5 Belle Vernon (15-2) needed penalty kicks to avoid a first-round upset against East Allegheny. Now the Leopards visit No. 4 Avonworth (15-2-1) in a battle of Section 3 and Section 4 champions.

Pitching quarters on the hardcourt

The WPIAL girls volleyball playoffs turn the page to second round action in 4A and Class A.

In 4A, the elite eight has three teams each from Section 1 and 2.

The two remaining teams from Section 3 are No. 6 Penn-Trafford and No. 9 Hempfield.

The Warriors visit No. 3 Canon-McMillan on Thursday while the Spartans travel to North Allegheny to face the top-seed Tigers.

The other two quarterfinals matches have No. 5 Upper St. Clair visiting No. 4 Pine-Richland and No. 2 Seneca Valley, fresh off a first-round bye, hosting No. 7 Peters Township.

All four second round matches begin at 7 p.m.

With only one upset in the opening round, the Class A quarterfinals will be two doubleheaders at neutral sites.

No. 11 California upset No. 6 Carlynton in Round 1, now the Trojans take on No. 3 Bishop Canevin at Peters Township at 7:30 p.m.

The match prior at AGN Arena has defending champion and No. 2 seed Frazier facing No. 7 Beaver County Christian at 6 p.m.

On the other side of the bracket, top-seeded Serra Catholic squares off with No. 8 West Greene at Gateway at 6 p.m., followed by No. 4 Greensburg Central Catholic against No. 5 Eden Christian Academy at 7:30 p.m.

Week 9 kickoff

We have had some Thursday night high school football throughout the season from the City League, but Week 9 of the WPIAL football season kicks off with a rare Thursday afternoon contest.

Union, the No. 2 team out of the Class A Big 7 Conference, preps for postseason play with a trip to Summit Academy at 12:30 p.m. on Trib HSSN.

The Scotties could earn a share of the conference championship with a win and a South Side loss to Rochester on Friday.

The Knights are looking for their first win of the season and are hoping to end a 16-game losing skid.

More Cross Country

Kiski Area 3-sport star Eliza Miller 3-peats as Valley News Dispatch girls athlete of the year
Husband, wife switch places on Plum cross country coaching staff
Gatorade picks Mt. Lebanon’s Logan St. John Kletter as top girls cross country runner in Pa.
Butler’s Drew Griffith tops Ringgold’s Ryan Pajak to win cross country national championship
Westmoreland County Senior Spotlight: Ligonier Valley’s Clara Wallace