The end of the line
Butler returns to haunt Lions one final time
SIDMAN — Altoona’s high school boys volleyball team lost just one contest in the regular season before winning the District 6 Class 3A championship.
Unfortunately for the Mountain Lions, the one team that got the better of them during that stretch, landed across the court from them in the first round of the PIAA playoffs Tuesday at Forest Hills High School.
The result, a 3-1 loss, was the same as earlier in the season and closed the book on the careers of several star Altoona seniors, including Phil Swartz, who will continue his volleyball journey at Division I Lindenwood in the fall.
“I loved it here,” Swartz said. “I broke so many records, and we broke so many records, and I can’t wait to go on to college and face the next challenge.”
Seven other seniors, including Tyler Barry, who had a team-high eight service points, played their final game in white and maroon.
“It’s a really special senior class,” Altoona coach John Saboe said. “They are the first class to have won three district titles. They are just some awesome kids. They worked hard in the gym and have done everything we asked of them. Sometimes you go through a season not appreciating that, but I looked at it during the year and really took in how good these kids were.”
Altoona actually rallied in the first set and scored the final three points to win, 28-26. Swartz’s kill clinched the set and gave Altoona an early lift.
“They were about an hour and 45 minutes away, and that’s a long bus ride,” Swartz said. “They came off the bus, and it showed. But then they were the better team from that point on.”
Starting in the second set, Butler’s Nash Bryan became the contest’s most animated player. The senior, who completed warm-ups in a Hawaiian shirt, showed a much more serious side starting in the second game and helped the Golden Tornados capture a highly-contested second set, 25-23.
“Nash is just a phenomenal player,” Swartz said. “His shots are just crazy. They got to everything no matter what we threw at them.”
There were several close calls during the set which eventually broiled over into Altoona getting a warning on its bench in the fourth set.
“As we moved into games three and four, we weren’t able to control what was happening on the court,” Saboe said. “I didn’t think our defense or blocking game played strong enough. We played well throughout the season, but they just struggled tonight.”
The second set loss seemed to take a lot out of the Mountain Lions, who went on to drop sets three and four by identical 25-16 scores.
“We serve and receive very well, and defensively we pick up the ball,” Butler coach Lew Liparulo said. “I think they are a very good team, but we were just able to transition to the right spots.”
BUTLER: Bryan 7, Chawalik 13, Schnur 6, Kline 9, Stein 8, Ray 2, Rankin 4.
ALTOONA: Barry 8, Nartatez 5, Swartz 5, Gibbons 4, Keller 6.
Officials: Tim Rough, Chad Oberholtzer, Clark Adelman, Brandon Stitt
Records: Butler (18-4); Altoona (16-2).