South Xtra: Bethel Park upset bid comes up short


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It was a bit of deja vu for the Bethel Park boys volleyball team in the WPIAL Class AAA tournament, but this time the Black Hawks came home with a trophy and a berth in the PIAA tournament.

Last season, Bethel Park gave top-seeded and defending champion North Allegheny all it could handle in the WPIAL semifinals by winning two of the first three sets, but the Tigers rallied to claim the final two sets and went on to win their sixth consecutive title.

Bethel Park still had a chance to qualify for the PIAA tournament if it could beat Seneca Valley in the consolation final, but the Black Hawks were deflated after the loss to North Allegheny and lost to the Raiders.

"We played North Allegheny better than anybody last year and had nothing to show for it," Bethel Park coach Tom Allman said.

Bethel Park got its rematch with North Allegheny Thursday, but this time it was in the WPIAL title match, and unfortunately for them the result was the same.

"Nobody gave us a chance in last year's semifinal match," Allman said. "It was the same in both the WPIAL semifinals and finals this year. Nobody expected us to beat Norwin in the semifinals, and nobody gave us a chance against North Allegheny in the title match."

Bethel Park's 3-0 sweep of Norwin in the semifinals was a warning to North Allegheny that the Black Hawks would not be a pushover in the title match.

North Allegheny posted a 25-17 victory in the first set, but Bethel Park rallied to tie the match at 1-1 with a 25-21 victory in the second set.

The momentum from that victory was short-lived, as North Allegheny dominated the third set by a 25-9 margin. That meant Bethel Park would have to win the final two sets to claim its first WPIAL title.

"We didn't play well in the third set and got our heads down, but showed a lot of heart in the fourth set," Allman said. "My assistant coach, Brian Blanc, gave a nice speech in between the third and fourth sets and got them fired up."

Bethel Park scored six of the last eight points in the fourth set to pull out a 25-21 victory and send the match to a fifth set.

The final set didn't go as well as Allman had hoped. North Allegheny jumped out to a 7-1 lead and held on for a 15-8 victory.

"You can't afford to fall behind 7-1 in the fifth set," Allman said. "We fought back to cut their lead to 11-8, but you use up a lot of energy in a comeback.

"That was evident at the end of the set. We made a few unforced errors at the end that really hurt. We actually had unforced errors on three of the last four points."

North Allegheny coach Dan Schall was impressed by Bethel Park.

"They played great, especially in game four," Schall said after the Tigers survived another scare against the Black Hawks. "They were desperate and really played well."

The loss was disappointing for Allman and his Bethel Park squad, but the Black Hawks took home a second-place trophy for the second time in school history. They also earned a berth in the PIAA tournament.

"I'm very proud of the boys," Allman said. "They showed a lot of heart out there."

Bethel Park faced District 10 champion State College in Wednesday's first round. The winner of that match faces the winner of the match between North Allegheny and WPIAL third-place finisher Norwin on Saturday, at a site and time to be determined.



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