Altoona captures title

TYRONE — Altoona Area High School boys volleyball coach John Saboe says senior outside hitter Phil Swartz is a “special player.”

The 6-foot-7 Swartz, who will play Division II volleyball at Lindenwood University in Missouri, added to his resume Wednesday night when the Mountain Lions swept State College, 27-25, 25-12, and 25-16, at the Tyrone Middle School for their third straight District 6 Class 3A championship.

“Phil Swartz is a very special athlete,” Saboe said following Wednesday’s sweep of State College. “He’s elevated his game every year and we’re very proud of him.

“We’re happy with what he does in the gym every day,” Saboe continued. “He elevates our team’s level of play and that’s very important because we want to be a contender in the state tournament.”

Losers only to Butler, in early April, the Mountain Lions will take on District 8 champion Brashear on Tuesday at a District 6 site.

Swartz, Altoona’s all-time kills leader, added 16 to that list Wednesday. He also made other contributions — 18 digs, seven service points (two aces) and two assists.

“Three (championships) in a row is very special,” Swartz said. “State College is always a tough opponent and I love playing them no matter how much we trash talk each other.

“I love my teammates,” Swartz continued. “We’ve really bonded and it’s been good for the Altoona program. I’m going to miss them because I’m going so far away.”

Altoona jumped out to a 9-4 lead in the first set but State rallied and led 25-24 before the Mountain Lions scored the last three points for a 27-25 win.

Altoona dominated the second and third sets. The Lions scored 10 of the last 12 points to win the second, 25-12, and they built an 18-10 lead en route to a 25-16 win in the third.

“Our kids have played in a number of close matches this year and are battle tested,” Saboe noted. “They’ve learned how to play in tough situations so I wasn’t worried (in the first set) because I know what they can do. Plus, we had experience on our side.”

SC coach Kim Lee Kimel downplayed the first set loss.

“Any tight set is important,” she said. “We let them turn a couple of 3-4-point runs early and in the middle and they were difference makers. It gave them momentum and confidence.

“They’re bigger and stronger, too,” she continued. “We needed two or three guys to contribute and we had just one most of the time.”

Besides the 6-7 Swartz, Altoona also had Ben Parrish to dominate at the net. Parrish, a 6-8 senior, had seven kills and five blocks.

“We’re lucky to have those two,” Saboe said.

Altoona had plenty of balance in dominating the match. Tyler Barry had nine service points, nine digs and four kills. Masen Nartatez recorded seven service points and 12 assists. Christopher Ball had 22 assists. Andrew Cassidy had four kills and two blocks. Zach Gibbons had two kills and three blocks and Dalton Keller had eight service points, four kills and 17 digs.

Match notes: Saboe is in his 15th year as head coach of the Mountain Lions and his 23rd overall. … He’s won three D6 titles and had two others as an assistant to Eric Kozak. … Kozak was one of the first to congratulate Saboe after Thursday’s win. … Saboe credited tough road matches with Saegertown, Central Dauphin and Butler as key to the Lions’ success this season. … Altoona will join the Mid-Penn Conference next year and will play State College twice in the regular season.