Freeport girls avenge loss to Beaver, advance to PIAA title game
By: Michael Love
Tuesday, November 14, 2017 | 8:21 PM
Hannah Mason got pretty emotional in anticipation of the final point that clinched the Freeport girls volleyball team's first-ever trip to the PIAA championship game.
With the Yellowjackets leading 24-18 in Game 4, the senior outside hitter swung away on a ball at the net. Beaver put up a block and made contact, but the ball landed out of bounds.
At that moment, the Freeport players mobbed each other in celebration of their 3-1 victory over the Bobcats on Tuesday at Seneca Valley High School.
“When we hit 24 (points), I started crying,” Mason said. “I hit that last ball without being able to see it well because of the tears in my eyes. But it worked out. I am just so happy.”
Freeport (24-3) avenged a five-set heartbreaker to Beaver in the WPIAL title game Nov. 4.
The Yellowjackets, who already made school history as the only Freeport team to ever play in a state semifinal, now will test their mettle against District 3 champion Delone Catholic at 1 p.m. Saturday at Richland High School near Johnstown.
Delone Catholic defeated District 6 runner-up West Shamokin, 3-0, on Tuesday.
Freeport coach Tom Phillips, in his 16th year at the helm of the Yellowjackets, said he's pleased to be able to coach this group one more time on the state's grandest stage.
“Coaching in a state championship game is something that I've always wanted to do,” he said. “But I didn't want to put pressure on them to make them feel like they had to play for me. It's about them playing for each other. That's what it's all about.”
Freeport and Beaver met in the postseason for the fourth time in the past three years, and the Yellowjackets are 3-1 in those matchups.
Things couldn't have started any better for Freeport as it claimed Game 1, 25-22, on a kill from junior middle Sarah Hettich and then won Game 2, 25-19.
Game 2 ended the same way the match concluded with Mason hitting into a Bobcats block, and the return landing out of bounds.
But Beaver's veteran leadership made sure the WPIAL champions fought back and stayed alive.
The Bobcats jumped out to leads of 11-2 and 14-3 en route to a 25-19 victory in Game 3.
Freeport rallied with runs of 7-2 and 6-2, and it closed the gap to 22-19. But a block and kills from senior middle hitters Alexa Mamone and Macy McElhaney helped the Bobcats win the final three points.
Despite the loss in Game 3, the Yellowjackets rode the momentum built as they tried to rally and channeled it into a strong start in Game 4. Freeport opened a 7-4 lead before Beaver rallied to tie the score 8-8. A Hettich kill — she finished the match with 11 kills, including four in Game 4 — gave the Yellowjackets the lead for good at 9-8, and they extended their advantage from there.
“We were down 10-2 (in Game 3), and I told them in a timeout they had to get the momentum swinging in our favor,” Phillips said. “They never quit. We lost the set, but we built momentum, and it carried over.”
Mason delivered six of her 12 kills in Game 4. DeJidas, who had 12 kills, junior Haley Graham and sophomore Lauren Lampus also provided key kills in the latter stages of the deciding game.
“I said, ‘We are not losing this game,' ” Mason said. “Everybody got fired up, and you saw the result.”
McElhaney, the Bobcats leading hitter, fronted Beaver with 19 kills.
“When Macy was in the front row, at one point, we had Sarah, Ally and Hannah all in the front row,” Phillips said. “That was by objective going into this. We wanted to make her go from pin to pin (down the lines) and wear her out a little bit. We wanted to make her work hard for her points. But she's such a wonderful player. We designed our whole defense around trying to stop her and their middles.”
Beaver closed its season at 19-2.
“The girls gave it their best shot, and it was a great season,” Beaver coach Charlene Horwatt said. “We got beat by a great team tonight. We didn't play our best. If we would've played better, it could have been closer. But, you know what? You've got to have your best day every day, or it will be your last day.”
Other game leaders for Freeport in Tuesday's win were senior Courtney Grubbs with 45 assists and 26 digs, Grubbs and senior libero Claire Crytzer with 17 service points, and Hettich and Graham with four blocks apiece.
“We've worked so hard for this,” Hettich said. “This has been one of our goals from the very first day we stepped foot in the gym with double sessions (in August). This is so special. I am so happy I am a part of this team.”