Ken Wunderley has this week's High School Boys Volleyball Notebook. Read his story below.
(Photo: Sophomore outside hitter Dom DeLuca and Derry are still looking to catch up to Deer Lakes. J.J. LaBella/Tri-State Sports & News Service)
A great start, but a not-so-great finish.
That sums up Derry Area's first Class 2A Section 2 showdown with Deer Lakes.
The two teams met April 11 at Derry with Deer Lakes ranked No. 2 in the WPIAL and Derry close behind at No. 4. The Trojans jumped out to a 2-0 lead with narrow victories and had the Lancers on the ropes in the third set.
"We had a 24-23 lead in the third set, but let it slip away," Derry coach Shawn Spencer said. "We just needed one point to close out the victory, but couldn't close the deal."
Deer Lakes pulled out a 26-24 victory in the third set and used the momentum from that win to claim the final two sets.
"That's all part of the process of having a young team," Spencer said. "We have to learn how to win those close matches."
Spencer's squad will get a second chance to face the Lancers Tuesday, but this time the Trojans will be on the road.
"It's always tough to play on the road," Spencer said. "We're looking forward to the challenge."
Deer Lakes enters the match with a 5-0 record in Section 2. Derry entered Thursday's match against Summit Academy with 4-1 mark.
Ambridge has the strongest tournament schedule of any team in the WPIAL.
The Bridgers have participated in the North Allegheny tournament (March 25), Northeastern Tournament (April 1) and Central York tournament (April 22), and will be in the State College tournament Saturday.
"The competition we face in tournaments is one of the biggest reasons for our success," said coach Glenn Freed, referring to Ambridge's seven WPIAL titles in the past nine years. "It helps prepare us for the postseason tournaments."
Ambridge found the going a bit tough at last weekend's Central York tournament.
"Class 3A teams dominated," Freed said. "[Four-time defending PIAA champion] Northeastern was the only Class 2A team to finish among the top eight. We lost in the second round of the playoffs."
Class 3A logjam
The top four finishers in each section qualify for the WPIAL tournament. That means one very good team from Class 3A Section 2 could find itself on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin.
Shaler, Butler and Pine-Richland entered the second half of section play tied for third place with a 3-3 record. In the first half, Butler beat Shaler, Pine-Richland beat Butler and Shaler beat Pine-Richland.
"It doesn't surprise me that we finished the first half tied," Shaler coach Paul Stadelman said. "All three of us deserve to be in the playoffs, but one of us may not make it. I just hope we're not the one that doesn't make it. We haven't been to the playoffs since 2010."
However, all three teams could make it. If the three teams finish in a tie, and the tie cannot be broken, all three would qualify.
Two of those rematches took place this week. Shaler beat Butler, 3-1, on Tuesday, and Pine-Richland played Butler on Thursday. The rematch between Shaler and Pine-Richland is May 11, the final night of the regular season.
Upper St. Clair
It has been a "topsy-turvy" season thus far for Upper St. Clair, according to coach Josh Ficorilli.
"We won our first four matches, lost our next four, then won our next three," said Ficorilli, prior to Tuesday's match against Baldwin. "Inconsistency has been our biggest problem."
Despite the inconsistency, Upper St. Clair entered Thursday's match against Central Catholic with a 6-2 record in Class 3A Section 1. The Panthers are in third place, behind Bethel Park and Peters Township.
"Next week is a big week for us," Ficorilli said. "We have Bethel Park at home (May 2) and Peters Township (May 4) on the road. We need to beat both to move up in the standings."
North Hills coach Jeff Beavers will be inducted into the Penn Hills Sports Hall of Fame Saturday.
Beavers, a 1975 graduate, was a two-year starter at setter for the Indians, who won three WPIAL titles and one PIAA crown while he attended Penn Hills. He also played two years at Pitt and was the Panthers' captain and MVP both seasons.
Beavers has coached various boys and girls teams, both at the high school and club levels, for 38 years.