Some may have questioned whether Our Lady of the Sacred Heart's boys volleyball team deserved to be in the WPIAL playoffs after posting a 2-6 record in Class AA Section 1.
Now nobody is doubting coach Mike McDonald's squad, especially Montour and Beaver County Christian, two teams that finished ahead of the Chargers in the section standings.
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart earned its first PIAA tournament berth by placing third in the 12-team WPIAL Class AA Tournament, which concluded last Thursday at Baldwin High School.
"We lost twice in section play to Montour and Beaver County Christian, but all for matches were close," McDonald said. "That showed me that we were not far behind both."
The sixth-seeded Chargers faced Montour in the WPIAL quarterfinals and avenged the regular-season losses with a 3-2 upset of the third-seeded Spartans.
McDonald's squad didn't do as well in the semifinals, as the Chargers were swept by No. 2 seed Derry Area. That set up another rematch with Beaver County Christian in the consolation final, with the prize a PIAA berth.
"I told the kids that I just wanted them to compete well in every match no matter what happens," McDonald said. "We're going to be the underdog in every match, but if we can stay close, anything can happen."
OLSH kept it close in all three sets against Beaver Christian and pulled out victories in all three -- 26-24, 25-21 and 27-25.
Shaughn McDonald, a junior outside hitter and the coach's son, led OLSH with 25 kills, 7 service aces and 9 digs.
"Shaughn's nine digs may have been the difference in the match," Mike McDonald said. "He also did a nice job hitting and serving. He was serving when we scored the winning point in all three sets."
Coach McDonald was also impressed with the play of junior outside hitter Alex Ritter and senior setter Nick Mulvay.
"Everytime we needed a really big hit from Alex, we got it from him," McDonald said. "He didn't have a high number of kills, but they were all very timely."
Mulvay is OLSH's only senior.
"Nick had the craziest play of the night," McDonald said. "He recorded a solo block for match point. He's the most unlikely of any player on our team for that to happen. It's something he will remember for the rest of his life."
OLSH was scheduled to play District 10 champion Saegertown in the opening round of the PIAA tournament on Wednesday.
"We're really excited about the PIAA tournament, especially since Nick is our only senior," McDonald said.
"Even if we lose in the first round, the experience we pick up can only help us in the future."hsother