South Xtra: Familiar foe ends Bethel's season

HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL

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What's that old saying about "Be careful what you wish for?"

The Bethel Park High School boys volleyball team received its wish of a rematch with North Allegheny, but the result was similar to the first meeting between the two.

The Black Hawks dropped a heart-breaking 3-2 decision to the Tigers in the WPIAL Class AAA title match on May 23 at Baldwin High School.

The two teams met again Saturday at Pine-Richland High School in the PIAA quarterfinals, but the Black Hawks took a backseat to the Tigers once again. This time it took only three sets.

"We sneaked up on North Allegheny the first time we met," Bethel Park coach Tom Allman said. "They didn't see us during the [regular] season, which gave us a bit of an advantage. We gave them all they could handle in the WPIAL championship match."

It was a different story in Saturday's PIAA match, as the Tigers recorded a 25-17, 25-20, 25-16 sweep.

"We have a couple weak links in our lineup that [North Allegheny] didn't exploit as much in the first match," Allman said. "They came right at our weak links in the rematch."

Bethel Park had earned its quarterfinal berth with a 3-2 victory against District 6 champion State College in the first round on May 29.

"State College missed a lot of serves in the first game and we were able to win by a comfortable margin [25-18]," Allman said. "The next two sets were very close."

Bethel Park pulled out a 25-23 victory in game two, thus gaining a 2-0 advantage in the best-of-five match, but State College rallied with a pair of victories [25-21, 25-14] to force a fifth game.

"[State College] had a jump server get hot in the fourth game and they just pounded us," Allman said. "I rotated our lineup in the fifth game to help our blocking against their big middle."

The two teams traded points in the fifth game until it was tied, 6-6. At that point, Bethel Park took charge and scored nine of the last 11 points to pull out a 15-8 victory.

"We had a great season," said Allman, who completes his 22nd season as the Black Hawks head coach. "Coming into the season, nobody expected us to do as well as we did. I'm very proud of this group of boys. They went further than anybody expected."

Eight members of Allman's squad are seniors, including six who were part of the starting rotation, and three were recognized as All-WPIAL Class AAA players.

Right-side hitter Grant Underwood was voted to the first team for the second consecutive year. Setter Vance Blanc was voted to the second team and libero Luke Hudson to the third team.

The other seniors are middle hitter Bobby Huntington, outside hitters Camden Hay and Aaron Glasser, and back-row specialists Ryan Petrossi and Alexander Kiselica.

"We are losing a very talented senior class, so next year will be a rebuilding year," Allman said. "But we do have a half-dozen lettermen returning to build the team around."

Allman would like to see Bethel Park become more like North Allegheny.

"North Allegheny reloads every year with kids who have experience playing club ball," Allman said. "We had three kids play club ball this year, and hope to have five or six next year."

Bethel Park's top returnee is Jake Dixon, a freshman outside hitter who was voted second-team All-Section 1-AAA.

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