NEW BETHLEHEM — Three District 9 titles in six days. At Redbank Valley, the fall of 2020 hasn’t been all that bad.
All three of those teams — the Lady Bulldogs volleyball and soccer teams and the Bulldogs football team — are in action today in the PIAA playoffs. The 16-3 soccer team hosts District 10 champion Cambridge Springs at noon while 7-0 football team faces D10 champion Reynolds in Brockway at 4 p.m.
And at Cranberry Township, the 21-1 volleyball team travels to face WPIAL and reigning state champion North Catholic starting at 2 p.m.
Prior to the trio of teams winning D9 titles from Oct. 31 through Nov. 5, the volleyball team was the lone fall sports team champion since 2010. The Lady Bulldogs won Class AA titles in 2018 and 2016. The girls soccer team’s first championship was this year while the football team hadn’t won a D9 crown since 1996.
Other fall sports team titles at Redbank Valley:
— Football: In addition to this year and 1996 were 1992 and 1991. The 1991 team advanced to the state playoffs as the lone D9 team to enter the Class AA playoffs.
— Volleyball: Prior to the even-year run going on now for the Lady Bulldogs that dates back through 2016, the team’s first D9 title came in 2009.
— Boys soccer: 2001 and 1995.
— Boys golf: Now a defunct program, the Bulldogs won six team titles in 2010, 1976, 1971, 1967, 1966 and 1961.
— Girls cross country: It hasn’t fielded a full lineup at districts in a handful of years, but its lone title came in 1991.
A quick look at today’s games:
The Bulldogs square off against the Reynolds Raiders for the first time ever with today’s winner advancing to the PIAA semifinals next weekend against the WPIAL champion — either Jeannette or Clairton — which is scheduled for today as well at North Hills High School starting at 11 a.m.
It sounds like a wrestling matchup waiting to happen. The teams have met just once on the mat, a 47-15 win for Reynolds at Brookville’s Ultimate Duals in 2008. They are annual foes individually at the regional level. This past season, both teams’ heavyweights met twice in Sharon with the Raiders’ Rocco John-Daniello beating the Bulldogs’ Kobe Bonanno twice and both qualified for states. Those two are also key players for today’s game at Varischetti Field.
The Lady Bulldogs won their state opening on Tuesday in a four-set win over District 5 champion Chestnut Ridge. Today, they get North Catholic which is the top-ranked Class AA team in the state in the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association state rankings.
Redbank Valley has won 20 straight games since a three-set set loss to Clarion, currently the No. 1 team in Class A as per the PVBCA.
Last year, North Catholic lost to Freeport in the WPIAL final, then beat it in the semifinals before claiming the state championship in a five-set match against District 4’s North Penn-Liberty.
The winner advances to Tuesday’s semifinals against the winner of the Maplewood vs. Philipsburg-Osceola quarterfinal game, the D10 and D6 champions respectively.
It took a shootout for the Lady Bulldogs to top Brockway for their first-ever district title last Wednesday. They and D10 champion Cambridge Springs got a bye into the quarterfinals today. The winner gets either D6 champion West Branch or WPIAL champion Greensburg Central Catholic in Tuesday’s semifinal at a site and time to be announced.
One of the Lady Bulldogs’ three losses came to West Branch, 3-1, at home back on Sept. 22.
Cambridge Springs beat Seneca, 3-1, for its first D10 title and its first-ever trip to the PIAA playoffs on Nov. 7.