North Allegheny Girls Volleyball Captures 4th WPIAL Title in the Last 5 Seasons

The Girls Volleyball Team poses after winning the 2021 WPIAL Championship.

JJ Labella

The Girls Volleyball Team poses after winning the 2021 WPIAL Championship.

Kyra Schmidt, Staff Writer

The Tigers defeated the number two ranked, section rival Shaler Area Titans for the 2021 WPIAL Championship on Saturday, November 6th.

With the win, the Tigers, led by Head Coach Russ Hoburg, finished 1st in the WPIAL for the second season in a row, this is also their fourth WPIAL title within the last five years.

During the regular season the Tigers and Titans had met twice. The first match The Titans took the win with a sweep of 3-0 and the second match-up The Tigers took the win with a reverse sweep of 3-2. 

In the first two sets of the match, The Titans led off strong with set scores of 25-22 and 25-20, respectively. The Tigers were then down two sets to zero in a best of five match, but they had been there before. In the last week of the regular season, the Tigers found themselves down 2-0 against Shaler, but came back to win 3-2 to tie for section champs.

Despite being down 2-0 the North Allegheny players seemed relaxed and confident as they danced to the music playing in the gym before the start of the third set. The Tigers appeared  focused, while Shaler almost seemed drained of energy. Playing with nothing to lose, the momentum began to swing the Tigers’ side.

As the momentum shifted between sets, Sophomore Avery Butcher said, “I think what really changed was our mentality of the game. The first two games we were playing scared and not truly going 100% but in the third and fourth set we had nothing left to lose. We had the energy and fire to endure the long fight and we were also mentally prepared to do just that.”

Senior Abbey Hahn added, “I think after the second set, we honestly had Shaler right where we wanted them. Previously in the season, we were in the exact situation and won. We were the underdogs. We had nothing to lose. And we could outlast them. I think this mentality switched the momentum for us.”

The North Allegheny Tiger’s rush the court, after a 5 set battle to win the 2021 WPIAL Championship.

Senior Rachel Burton also mentioned how, “We needed more energy to grow the momentum. We have never been a quiet team so it was natural for us after a couple of points. We started getting louder and louder allowing the momentum back onto our side.”

The third set came to an end with a NA win, and a score of 25-18. The Tiger’s energy carried over once again into the 4th set where they again came to the top with a score of 25-18. 

As the fifth set began, tensions were high between both teams. Shaler was fighting for their first WPIAL Championship in program history, whereas North Allegheny was fighting for their 4th in the last five seasons. Shaler led for most of the fifth set, before the Tigers ultimately came back to win the 2021 WPIAL Championship with a score of 15-13.

After the game the players admitted to feeling pressure to keep the streak alive. Sophomore Butcher stated, “Yes. It is a ton of pressure. We are not only doing this for ourselves but also for the program and the teams before us to continue the legacy.” 

Senior Hahn then said, “After losing to Shaler earlier in the season, the common reaction of many kids at school was “wow you guys never lose”. I think this is something we often take for granted. It’s almost become an expectation for us to win. Personally, I don’t feel a lot of pressure to keep the winning streak going, but more pressure to perform to the best of my ability.” 

Senior Burton also said how, “Going into the season we had a winning streak of over 80 games with one loss. This year we took a loss in the regular season, our first in the past four years. That loss was hard, but we knew that it wasn’t going to stop us. It drove us to be better and start a new streak.”

The girls also had talked about how NAVB is a different atmosphere to play in compared to other highschool programs. Senior Hahn said, “Honestly, I think the biggest difference between NAVB and other programs is how close we all are. Playing with your best friends makes the game even more fun.”

Sophomore Butcher also added, “I think what makes NAVB’s program different is the family atmosphere that the team and the coaches have made for us. We are constantly supportive and having fun and that is what makes us special.” 

Lastly, Senior Burton said, “Our highschool program is different from everyone else because we are all friends. I think it really helps when you are friends with your teammates not only on the court, but also off of it. We hangout outside of school and volleyball and I think that just brings another type of bond that you can’t just get by playing with someone. It brings more communication, energy, knowing of each other’s tendencies, and just makes it a lot more fun. I also think this adds more healthy competitiveness to the practices.”

For the past four years, the four seniors on North Allegheny had experienced the WPIAL Championship year after year, they all mentioned that it had impacted them immensely. Senior Hahn also said, “It feels amazing. As a freshman, I never would have dreamed that winning WPIAL championships would become “the norm” for us. I think I often forget that winning a WPIAL title is something most people don’t experience once in their life, let alone three times.” 

Senior Burton then added, “It’s been surreal to be a part of a team that has been so successful. I am extremely grateful and lucky to be a part of the program especially during some of its most successful years. It is amazing to look back and see the legacy that will be left for the years to come.”

The Tigers now look forward to a WPIAL Championship rematch, again on November 16th, for the state semifinals match.