WPIAL champion Shaler fends off Canon-McMillan in state volleyball playoffs thriller

Saturday, June 10, 2023 | 4:25 PM

In a season where the Shaler boys volleyball team won its first WPIAL championship, the Titans haven’t had to deal with a match that went five sets.

You can check that off the Titans’ list now.

After dropping their first two sets, Shaler rallied to win the final three sets to capture a 3-2 victory over Canon-McMillian in the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinals Saturday at Peters Township.

The Big Macs took the first two sets – 27-25, 25-18 – before the Titans won the final three – 25-16, 25-15, 15-7.

“We haven’t had the experience of playing five sets all season,” Shaler coach Paul Stadelman said. “As a coach, you’re wondering how your team is going to react and respond to adversity. I think you saw they stepped up and responded pretty well. They were confident and played pretty well as a team. It’s not how we drew it up, but it was a great effort by the whole group.”

The Titans were led by junior outside hitter Logan Peterson, who finished with 25 digs, five kills and two aces.

Shaler’s junior setters, Peyton Planz and Zach Rosenwald, finished with 31 and 18 sets respectively. Planz added five kills and two blocks. Rosenwald had 12 digs.

Junior defensive specialist Cam Miller 22 digs. The Titans’ junior middle blockers, Dante Palombo and Logan Schimmel, finished with 16 and 13 kills. Palombo had four blocks, while Schimmel finished with three blocks and two aces.

Junior outside hitter Zac Wurzer finished with 11 digs, 11 kills and two blocks.

Shaler (18-1) will move on to face Central York (17-2), the District 3 runner-up, in the semifinals Tuesday.

“It’s a quick turnaround,” Stadelman said. “It’s about getting back into the gym and continuing to work on the same things we’ve worked on with our fundamentals. The states schedule is a little bit different with the kids out of school. I think that’s part of this journey. Luckily, we had experience with states last year, and it has really helped us this year.”

Shaler previously beat Canon-McMillan, 3-0, in the WPIAL Class 3A semifinals on its way to its first WPIAL championship. The scores of the match on May 23 were 25-16, 25-23, 25-21.

“That was one of our toughest matches of the season,” Stadelman said. “There was no walking in, underestimating our opponent. We knew we were going to have a match against a very high-quality team that was going to force us to execute and play at our very best.”

For Canon-McMillan, senior rightside hitter Owen Ostrowski finished with 29 kills, 14 digs, three blocks and two aces. Junior outside hitter Luke Bockius finished with 19 digs, eight kills and two blocks.

Sophomore setter Justin Peters finished with 40 sets and 12 digs.

Senior liberio Xander Krut finished with 11 digs, while junior defensive specialist Ben Kopec recorded 10 digs.

The Titans couldn’t find their rhythm in the first set as they had key miscues that were capped off with two mishits on consecutive points to give the Big Macs a 27-25 win.

Canon-McMillan, which finished third in the WPIAL playoffs, took the momentum of winning the first set into the second. Ostrowski earned the set point when he placed the ball in a vacant space that Shaler couldn’t get to, giving the Big Macs a 25-18 win.

“If we had to end the season in any way, that’s it. We made them sweat a little bit and make them work. They are a tough team,” Canon-McMillan coach Sheila Mitchell said. “We were trying to keep it away from Dante Palombo in the middle.”

With their backs against the wall, the Titans eventually started to find their footing and took control of the match.

“I told them to start having fun and enjoying themselves. Don’t be rattled by the situation and just go out and play volleyball,” Stadelman said. “I have a group of guys that love to play volleyball. It’s hard to give them a day off because they never want to take a day off. When I tell them to go out there, have fun and compete, that’s when they are at their happy place.”

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