Dan Schall is in his 11th year as North Allegheny's boys volleyball coach but he's already become the most successful boys coach in WPIAL history.
North Allegheny has claimed 10 WPIAL titles since Schall took over for legendary coach Bob Miller, who claimed six WPIAL crowns during his ultra-successful tenure.
The only thing that has eluded Schall during his 11 years at North Allegheny is a PIAA title. The Tigers were hoping to get a shot at that elusive title when they faced Central Dauphin in Wednesday's PIAA Class AAA semifinals.
The only boys program that may have had a coach with more titles is the now defunct Homestead High School. Homestead, which merged with Munhall in 1971, won 12 WPIAL titles during a 20-year stretch from 1944 to 1963, but the Steelers program is believed to have had more than one coach during that stretch.
There are two girls volleyball coaches who have won more titles than Schall. Harriett Morrison won 20 WPIAL titles and eight PIAA titles during her tenure at Farrell. Sheron Watson claimed 15 WPIAL titles and 12 PIAA titles while coaching at Norwin.
"I think [dynasty] applies," Schall conceded after North Allegheny claimed the WPIAL title on May 23. "That's the great work of so many kids who have come through the program. It's a lot of pressure on each team from year to year, and they've responded in great ways. They really embrace the pressure that comes along with being a defending champion."
Ambridge coach Glenn Freed agreed that North Allegheny has to be considered a dynasty.
"The word dynasty fits for North Allegheny," Freed said. "They have one of the best programs in the state.
"Coaching is one reason for North Allegheny's success. They have a great coaching staff that is very dedicated. They also have a lot of kids to chose from, most of whom play year round. Success breeds success."
North Allegheny's senior libero Suyash Fulay also believes it begins with the coaching staff.
"First, it comes from the coaching," said Fulay, when asked why North Allegheny has been so successful. "Coach Schall is not just a great coach, he's also a great role model. That trickles down to everything we do, especially playing."
Fulay also credited North Allegheny's feeder system.
"We've been playing together since we were in seventh grade," said Fulay, a three-year starter. "We've formed a great family bond during that time. We experienced the winning tradition as we came up through the program and want to keep that tradition alive."
Norwin coach Al Warden agrees that North Allegheny's feeder system is the key to its success.
"North Allegheny has a solid program from the ground up," said Warden, whose Knights were swept by North Allegheny in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAA tournament. "The feeder system gives North Allegheny a huge advantage, because none of the teams in Westmoreland County have one. Most of my kids don't play volleyball until they reach high school."
North Allegheny's involvement in club ball has also played a big part in the program's success. At least 20 players from North Allegheny played for the Pittsburgh Volleyball Club.
"Most of our kids play club ball," Schall said. "We have several who cannot play, due to commitments to other sports. The kids play from late November until February. It really helps to prepare them for the high school season."
Another reason for North Allegheny's great success is its depth. Schall uses at least 15 players in every varsity match.
"I've been very fortunate to have kids who have the talent and selflessness to fill whatever roles we have for them," Schall said. "The players on our varsity roster are interchangeable. That depth really helps when we're in a match that goes to five sets."
North Allegheny usually has eight to 10 seniors on its squad. Losing that much talent would be a hardship on most programs, but the Tigers reload with players who have experience.
"Our underclassmen are facing the seniors every day in practice," Schall said. "They are gaining quality experience in every one of those practices."
Bethel Park coach Tom Allman had two chances to see North Allegheny's depth, in the WPIAL title match and the quarterfinals of the PIAA tournament. North Allegheny posted victories in both matches.
"North Allegheny has one of the better team's I've seen," Allman said. "It's been a while since I've seen a team with so much power hitting. They have strong, well-rounded hitters at every position."