Despite a never-quit attitude, the Parkland girls volleyball team faded in the PIAA Class 4A final against District 7 powerhouse North Allegheny.
A furious rally gave the Trojans an early lead and even had a pair of set points in the second. From there, the Tigers took over and ran away with a 3-1 [23-25, 27-25, 25-18, 25-15] victory, handing Parkland its first loss of the season on Saturday at Cumberland Valley High School.
North Allegheny remains on top of the state mountain, as it has claimed five-straight PIAA titles.
Parkland suffered its first loss and closed the season with a record of 24-1.
“We felt we could play with them after the first set,” Parkland coach Mike Krause said. “In the second set, just getting those two extra points, those extra couple breaks that ended up going North Allegheny’s way, that was the difference.”
The match opened up with back-and-forth action. While the Trojans did not have a lead after 6-5, it did remain within three throughout the set.
Down 23-21, Elena Pursell and Brynn Dreisbach helped the Trojans go on a 4-0 run with a pair of kills apiece to jump ahead late and close out a tight first set.
Parkland trailed by as many as eight points in the second set and it appeared the Tigers would sail to a tie score. But again, the Trojans did not go away, as the two teams traded punches like two heavyweight fighters.
After clawing back to tie the score at 22-22, the Trojans had a set point at 24-23 and another at 25-24 - but they could not close out the set.
Backed by big hitters in Ella Deeter and Carissa Treser, North Allegheny would win the next three points and the set, which tied the match at one set apiece.
The Trojans would not hold another lead after the second set. Despite going on a couple lengthy streaks, the team just could not find its way back into the match. When the Trojans appeared vulnerable, the Tigers were relentless.
Constantly on the attack, North Allegheny went up 15-9 in the fourth and appeared en route to the title. With one last-ditch effort, the Trojans cut the difference to two, twice, but a 7-0 Tiger run closed out the match, resulting in another state championship.
“What we’re most proud of is there’s no quit on our team,” Krause said “We always keep on playing, and that’s what you try to instill in them. The character of this group is very evident. We’ve instilled that in our seniors and really with the whole group. Getting kids to respond has made me very proud to coach this team.”
“We had great community support and the student body section really supported us. We tried to do everything to make them proud.”
As they’ve been all season, the Trojans were led offensively by Dreisbach (15 kills), Pursell (19 kills), Sydney Esquieres (11 kills), Alli Reimer (7 kills), and Maggie Smith (40 assists). On defense, Dreisbach (15 digs), Smith (15 digs), Scarlett Jago (16 digs), Meredith Steirer (10 digs), and Sydney Johnston (9 digs) put forth solid efforts.
“We are obviously disappointed because we know we could’ve won if a couple more things went our way,” Johnston said. “But no Parkland team has done this since 2016, so just to be here is amazing. To not lose one match until the state finals is something I wouldn’t have imagined before the season. Parkland volleyball has taught me so much, especially how to work with a team.”
Prior to North Allegheny’s dominance over the course of the past five years, the team has not been to a state final since 2008, when it finished runner-up. The previous three state titles all came in a row (1992-1994).
Additionally, North Allegheny’s five-straight state titles are the most in the PIAA since Norwin won eight straight from 1976-1983.
Parkland has also put together an incredible resume at the state tournament, especially over the past dozen years. The Trojans have a record of 3-3 in the state finals, all six of those appearances came in 2011 or later.
The team has also reached the semifinals an impressive 10 times during that span and has won the District 11 tournament 11 times since 2010. Krause, who’s in his 18th year of coaching the Trojans, is a big reason for that list of the team’s accomplishments, which includes a postseason record of 93-11 during that time frame.
“I think it was built up in the years prior, and we built a philosophy and belief that the kids have responded to,” Krause said. “I’ve had great assistant coaches, who have common goals to work hard and love this game. We’ve felt that we exposed the kids to good coaching and have guided them into development. That philosophy has helped them achieve a lot.”