North Allegheny captures PIAA boys volleyball title
Ambridge falls short in AA championship
June 9, 2013 4:00 AM
JJ LaBella/Tri-State Sports & News Service
Tommy Keisling takes aim at a shot Saturday in North Allegheny's PIAA Class AAA championship victory against Pennsbury.
By Ken Wunderley Tri-State Sports & News Service
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- One of North Allegheny's boys volleyball fans summed it up perfectly with a sign that read "The time has come."
North Allegheny claimed its fifth PIAA title and first since 1999 with a 3-1 victory against District 1 champion Pennsbury Saturday at Penn State's Multi-Sport Facility.
It was the first title for coach Dan Schall, who took over for legendary coach Bob Miller 11 years ago. The Tigers had made three title appearances and five semifinals in his tenure, but had yet to reach the pinnacle of PIAA volleyball.
"We wanted to get this one for coach Schall," Tigers libero Suyash Fulay said. "He's been such a great mentor and coach for us. It's the one thing he had yet to accomplish in his coaching career. I'm so happy we were able to give him his first title."
Schall's first thoughts were of his team and the great tradition of North Allegheny volleyball.
"I feel so happy for the kids. They've worked so hard to reach this goal," said Schall, who has led North Allegheny to 10 WPIAL titles in 11 years. "We have a lot of respect for what Coach Miller did to build this program. We've tried to live up to that. It's a welcomed pressure of being such a successful program."
North Allegheny was making its 13th appearance in a PIAA title match since 1979. Pennsbury was making its fourth title appearance since 2004 and had to settle for a fourth silver medal.
"I've been thinking about winning a state championship since I was in seventh grade," Tigers setter Joe Murphy said. "In ninth grade, I watched my idols lose in the semifinals. In 10th grade, we lost in the title match. Last year, we lost a heartbreaker in the Round of 16. It's so amazing to get here and finally win one."
Defense was the key for North Allegheny, as the Tigers recorded 39 blocks and 67 digs. Alex Glisan led the Tigers with 101/2 blocks, while Brendan Brown added nine. Fulay led with 20 digs and Murphy had 13.
"People always talk about offense," said Justin Zweig, who had 14 kills and 6 1/2 blocks. "They never talk about how good our defense is. Suyash Fulay is one of the best liberos I've ever seen. When you add how good our blocking is to that, that's the main reason why we went almost unbeaten this year."
Ambridge was not as fortunate in the PIAA Class AA final. The Bridgers made their third title appearance in six years, but lost, 3-1, to District 3 champion Northeastern.
"We played a great match, but Northeastern was even better," Ambridge coach Glenn Freed said. "It's disappointing to come this far and fall short, but I'm very proud of my kids. We reached every goal, except for winning this match."
Northeastern dominated the first set, jumping out to an 8-1 lead, and eventually winning, 25-15. Ambridge rallied to win the second set, 25-23, but Northeastern recorded back-to-back 25-22 victories to capture its fourth title, and first since 2010.
Lee Smith led Ambridge with 26 kills and Brandon Buck had 10.