Bethel Park advances to volleyball finals
On Halloween night, black and orange indeed ruled as Bethel Park upended Shaler, 3-1, and advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA volleyball championships for the first time in school history.
Seeded seventh, the Lady Hawks, attired in their black uniforms with orange piping, overcame a rough start, where they dropped the first set, 25-23, and upset the No. 3 seeded Titans. They reeled off victories in the next three sets, 25-19, 25-21, and 25-15, to clinch their spot in the finals.
The win over the Titans came on the heels of another giant-toppling as BP dispatched Pine-Richland, 25-19, 25-20, 25-23, to advance to its first Final Four. In the playoff opener, the Hawks defeated Upper St. Clair, 25-13, 25-12, 25-14.
“These girls are learning and growing with each match,” said head coach Shawn Palmer. “They keep getting better at handling these first-time situations.”
At first, against the Titans, the Lady Hawks did not handle the pressure well. Backed by a vocal support section of 100-plus students, Shaler opened up a comfortable lead before settling in to take the first set by two points.
“The first set they were tense,” explained Palmer. “It was the first time they had been in a situation like this. They had the jitters. They were hesitant. They had to get through that but after that they played great.”
Indeed, BP opened up a 13-7 lead and won the second set by six points. Tied, 20-20, the Hawks used a 5-1 run to seal the third set. They opened up leads of 9-2 and 17-10 before clinching the victory in the fourth set.
After dominating Pine-Richland with 19 kills, Stacey Kazalas ruled the Titans. She controlled the action, accounting for key spikes in critical points in the match.
“If she doesn’t come through for us, then we don’t win,” Palmer said. “She is our big gun offensively.”
Olivia Schanck at the end “drilled” the serves. “She nailed it,” said Palmer.
The Hawks also benefited from the play up front by Samantha Simpson, Kayte Zeiler, Hannah Gleeson and Jessica Hanson.
Sarah Storino and Morgan Stelmaszynski excelled as defensive specialists while Kaileigh Poe and Rachel Dunay set well for the Hawks.
Also playing important roles were Taylor Mannarino, Emily Marzina, Paige Chalus and Carly Mansfield.
“Heart and effort,” said Palmer. “It took a lot of both to get this far.”
The Hawks will play the winner of the match between Norwin and North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAA championship match at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 2 at Chartiers Valley.