It was a battle of WPIAL champs vs. District 3 champs in the PIAA boys volleyball title matches Saturday at Penn State University's Recreation Hall.
District 3's champs won both battles, with Central York and Northeastern claiming titles. North Allegheny and Ambridge had to settle for second best.
North Allegheny was making its third appearance in the PIAA finals in four years, but fell short in its attempt to become the first team since 2003-04 to win back-to-back titles.
The Tigers faced Central York in a rematch of the 2011 Class AAA final and the Panthers swept this match, 3-0.
"It's very difficult to repeat," North Allegheny coach Dan Schall said. "We had only three guys on this team who touched the floor in last year's title match. In high school sports, every year is a new creation, a new entity. We were not playing with the same guys as last year. A year makes a difference in high school sports."
North Allegheny's 2013 state championship team was a very experienced group that was a strong favorite to win the state title. Heavy graduation losses left the Tigers as a long shot to make a return trip to the finals.
The opposite was true of Central York. The Panthers had a veteran squad, which included two players voted to last year's Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association all-state team.
"One of the things that made Central York so good is that every one of their guys is an offensive threat," Schall said. "They can beat you from anywhere along the net. They also served incredibly well, which magnified how good their block was. In most situations, we had only one or two options offensively and their block was tremendous. Every phase of the game they did incredibly well. They are very deserving of winning this title."
North Allegheny matched Central York point for point in the first set until it was tied 13-13. Central York took charge and outscored the Tigers, 12-4, to win, 25-17.
The second set was also close, as the two teams were tied at 19-19, but Central York scored six of the next eight points to record a 25-21 victory and take a commanding 2-0 lead. The Panthers clinched the title with a 25-19 victory in the third set.
Seniors Mitch Higgins and David Haus led North Allegheny in kills with 17 and nine respectively.
The Class AA title match featured a rematch of last year's final. Northeastern needed four sets to defeat Ambridge in last year's title match and needed only three sets to defend its title.
"[Northeastern] did a great job," Ambridge coach Glenn Freed said. "We kept trying to get into our game and they kept stopping us with everything that we were doing. That's why they are the state champions. They are such a great team."
The first set was close early, 11-11, but Northeastern scored the next six points and a 25-20 victory. The same thing happened in the second set, as the two teams were tied at 11-11. Northeastern dominated from that point on, outscoring the Bridgers, 14-4, to win, 25-15. Northeastern dominated the third set, recording a 25-14 victory.
"We knew what to expect, since we had played them a couple times during the season," Freed said. "They just put it all together today and played a great match."
Penn State recruit Lee Smith, a four-year starter, led the Bridgers with 12 kills in his final appearance. Dan Zajac and Brandon Buck, also seniors, added six kills each.