North Catholic boys follow prom night with WPIAL volleyball title
PETERS TWP — From dancing in tuxedos and drinking from bowls of punch to becoming North Catholic’s first-ever boys volleyball WPIAL champions — it was a whirlwind 24 hours for the Trojans’ Luke Ball and Ro Alessandro.
“The boys had prom last night, so we did not practice for this,” North coach Stacie Ball said after her team’s WPIAL Class 2A title game sweep of section foe Ambridge Thursday. “It was kind of a fight to make sure they got in bed at a decent time. We got a little bit of serving and serve-receive in around 3 p.m., just to get touches on the ball.”
Ball and Alessandro are the only two seniors on the team. They went to prom in the same group, taking photos at North Park before moving on to the Marriott where the dance was held. The players enjoyed themselves at the function until 10 p.m., headed to an after-party at a friend’s house, and made sure to be home by 1 a.m. at the request of Coach Ball.
“She gave us leniency, of course, but she wanted us to all be asleep in our own beds so that we got a good night’s sleep,” the younger Ball said of his mother’s request. “I think that helped a lot.”
Coach Ball noticed a business-like focus from her group as it entered North’s gym for the walk-through the following afternoon.
“The boys kind of did it on their own,” she said. “They got home at a decent hour. The seniors kind of led. They said, ‘Hey, you know, this is our last prom, but this is the only time we’ll play in the WPIAL championship.’ ... They still were able to go out and have fun.”
“Of course, it was incredibly hard, coming off of a long night after prom and having the game the next day,” Ball said. “We wanted to win this game so bad that we were able to come together and support each other as we were kind of tired after prom and get back into the right mindset.”
Ball and Alessandro were on the Trojans’ team that fell short in the WPIAL final in 2021, but watched from the bench as sophomores. The preparation earlier in the day was more to stay loose, the former explained.
“Especially early in the day, it was, ‘How do I get my mind and my body right for the game after prom that night?” Ball said. “It was just coming together as a team, not making it too strict, joking around. We all knew what we were playing for, but it was also making sure that our emotions didn’t get the best of us.”
North was a bit shaky in the initial game, but set the tone by coming out of it on top.
“I think, after the first set, everyone was just going and no one looked back,” said Alessandro, who also played soccer and hockey for the Trojans.
The win was a memory neither player will soon forget.
“The fact that we were able to go and get that win, it was an incredible moment,” Ball said. “I was glad that we could get that win for my mom, as a coach who worked so hard this season for us.”
“Just winning it — especially with Luke, because he’s one of my closest friends — it was just amazing,” Alessandro said. “That’s all I wanted for my high school sports career, was to win one championship.”
Having not dropped a single set in their four WPIAL playoff games — against Trinity, South Fayette, Greater Latrobe, and Ambridge — the Trojans move on to the state tournament with a head of steam.
“Right now, we need to take a little bit of a rest and get our bodies back correct,” Ball said. “We have the confidence level that we need ... We know we can play with the best of them.”
“We’re just here to have fun and continue to play volleyball,” Alessandro said. “We’re going to go for a state run, see how far we make it, and just enjoy it while it lasts.”