Freeport volleyball knocks off defending PIAA champs to advance to semifinals for first time
By: Michael Love
Saturday, November 11, 2017 | 9:48 PM
There will be a new PIAA Class AA champion in girls volleyball.
Freeport stopped District 10 champion Corry's run to a repeat with a 3-1 victory Saturday in a quarterfinal match at Slippery Rock High School.
The Yellowjackets also made program history as they advanced to the state semifinals for the first time.
Several past attempts to make it to the final four, including 2013 and '15 under the head-to-head format for all rounds, were unsuccessful.
“This is an incredible feeling,” junior hitter Haley Graham said. “Coach always says this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and that we have to go and get it. We're enjoying each moment.”
Freeport and Corry were no strangers to each other as the teams met for three games at the Freeport tournament in September. The Yellowjackets won two of the three.
“We knew they were a (darn) good team,” Freeport coach Tom Phillips said. “They are a complete team with a lot of talent.”
Graham and sophomore Lauren Lampus had the final two swings for the Yellowjackets that put the cap on the victory in the latest matchup.
Ahead two games to one and leading Game 4, 23-12, Graham delivered a kill that put Freeport on the cusp. Lampus then wound up and hit a ball into the Corry block. When the deflected ball fell to the hardwood floor, the Yellowjackets players mobbed each other in celebration.
“This is so exciting,” Lampus said. “I am so happy.”
Freeport (22-3) now gets the rematch against WPIAL champion Beaver it wanted since loing to the Bobcats in five sets in the WPIAL title game Nov. 4.
Beaver advanced to Tuesday's semifinal match with a 3-1 victory over Serra Catholic. The site and time for the match will be announced Sunday.
“They want more,” Phillips said. “They're not done yet. During one of the timeouts (against Corry), we talked about tasting defeat (in the WPIAL title game) and not wanting to experience that feeling again.
“I saw the look in their eyes that they weren't going to let this one slip away.”
Corry (19-1) was dominant through its run to 19 victories this season. The Beavers lost only two sets in five-set matches coming into the state quarterfinals.
One of those sets lost was to Avonworth in the PIAA first round. Corry lost the first set against the Antelopes but won the next three to advance.
“We just kept building on our momentum from the wins (in Sets 2 and 3),” Lampus said. “We put (Corry) in a situation they hadn't been in too many times.”
After Set 1, a 25-23 loss, Freeport adopted a mantra of regroup, refocus and respond.
The Yellowjackets held a 17-13 lead in the first set, but Corry rallied with a 10-0 run to take a 23-17 lead.
Freeport tried to complete a rally of its own with a 6-1 run to close to within 24-23, but a kill from Beavers junior middle hitter Brook Joncas ended the game.
“I told them that Corry got Set 1, but we played poorly,” Phillips said. “We made a lot of mental mistakes early on and made some bad choices on where to put the ball. We didn't play well, but it was close. We bounced back like I expected us to and stuck it out in that second (game).”
Freeport jumped out to a 5-1 lead in Set 2, but it ended up being close throughout. The Yellowjackets led 21-18 before a pair of kills from Joncas closed the gap to one.
But kills from Graham and Lampus and a Corry hitting error made it 24-20. Another hitting error by the Beavers two points later ended the set at 25-21.
Thirteen ties highlighted Set 3. Freeport tied the score at 1-1 and never trailed after that, but it was not able to pull away. Its largest lead of the set was three at 10-7 and 11-8.
Leading 25-24, the Yellowjackets got the winner from senior setter Courtney Grubbs, who directed the ball down the line and away from any Beavers defenders.
“This was what volleyball is all about: two or three points either way with a touch here and a touch there as the difference,” Corry coach Kelly Goodsel said. “It was two really good teams with good ball control and a lot of weapons. There were so many long rallies with great saves made on each side. It was just a great match.”