WPIAL champion North Allegheny turn focus to state volleyball tournament

Thursday, May 31, 2018 | 11:00 PM

Burnout isn't something that dogs the North Allegheny boys volleyball program.

Most of the Tigers play some form of club in addition to the high school season. Once the prep season wraps up, North Allegheny's players go and play on the sand courts at Blueberry Hill Park.

The games are purely recreational, but Tigers senior hitter Jason Stiefvater says they don't lack in intensity.

“It makes you a volleyball player, honestly,” Stiefvater said. “Indoor volleyball makes you specialize at a certain position. If you a setter, you are good at setting and passing, but not necessarily hitting. If you are a libero, you are good at digging and passing, but not necessarily hitting and setting. It forces you to use every skill. I feel confident being thrown into any position.”

Most of North Allegheny's players do. The Tigers were heavy favorites against section rival Butler during their PIAA Class AAA quarterfinal last Saturday at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School.

Results from the game were too late for this edition. North Allegheny, which is 20-0, opened the PIAA playoffs by sweeping Berwick May 29 at Hempfield. The Tigers have only lost one set in match play this season, dropping one in the WPIAL finals against Bethel Park.

“One of the really key attributes about this team is how much they enjoy the journey,” North Allegheny coach Dan Schall said before the playoffs started. “While that's a long term goal, they understand the work it takes to get there. They aren't losing sight in front of them. It's nice to make that extended of a run.”

Against Warwick, the Tigers put their foot down early, opening up with a 25-15 win in the first set. Canyon Tuman led the team with 11 kills, while Stiefvater (10), Jake Barber (seven) and Jeremiah Zemet helped carry the load. Trevor Treser contributed four digs and three aces.

Schall has seen improvement from the team during the season. “There's been great progress, I think our middle blockers have come along,” Schall said before the playoffs started. “I think we've gone back to the fundamentals with our outside blockers and getting reads on hitters. I think it's shown up in some of our bigger matches.”

North Allegheny hopes those skills will continue to blossom as the Tigers inch closer to a second straight appearance in the state finals. The Tigers last won a PIAA crown in 2013 and have lost four-set matches against Central York in their last two appearances.

“It's a lot less pressure. It's a lot more fun to play in,” Stiefvater said. “In WPIALs, since we're NA we are expected to win. Playing in the state playoffs, there's pressure that comes with each game; it's win or go home. But at the same time, we enjoy it more and play with enthusiasm and have fun out there.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.


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