After WPIAL title, Freeport volleyball team seeks second state championship

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Sunday, November 6, 2022 | 7:26 PM


Freeport girls volleyball hasn’t lost to a Class 2A team this season.

The Yellowjackets were No. 1 in the Western Pennsylvania Coaches Association rankings from beginning to end, they rolled through Section 5-2A undefeated and they won 12 of 13 sets in the WPIAL tournament to win the program’s second straight WPIAL title and seventh overall since 2010.

Coach Tom Phillips said Saturday’s 3-1 victory over No. 2 Shenango at Robert Morris’ UPMC Events Center was a major challenge and a major accomplishment for the players.

But now, he added, the task, as Freeport is used to doing, is making that transition from celebration — the team received a police escort through a throng of well-wishers in Freeport Borough and at the high school — to focus on preparing for the PIAA playoffs.

Freeport will host District 10 runner-up Corry on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in a first-round contest at Freeport Middle School.

“The streets were lined with so many people so excited about the girls bringing home another championship,” Phillips said of Saturday’s celebration.

“You just never forget moments like that as a player. It was a great feeling for everyone.”

Freeport is in the state tournament for the 11th time in the past 13 years. Phillips said the experience of playing in the state playoffs last year and in 2019 is key for his players.

“With so much emotion and physical exertion that goes into winning a WPIAL title, there sometimes can be that WPIAL hangover that all the teams try to overcome,” he said. “You have to get refocused quickly because the turnaround is so fast.

“There’s that small window of time you have to prepare. But the girls will draw on that experience, and they will be ready on Tuesday.”

Freeport’s only state title in the past 13 years came in 2017, when it topped District 3’s Delone Catholic for all the gold.

During that run five years ago, the Yellowjackets met Corry, then the District 10 champion, in the quarterfinals at Slippery Rock High School and rallied for a 3-1 victory.

Tuesday’s matchup is the first meeting between the teams since that 2017 game.

It is the second year in a row the Yellowjackets will open the state playoffs at home. Freeport beat Plum, 3-0, in last year’s first round.

“That is huge for the girls to get to go back and play one more time in their gym,” Phillips said. “After the Neshannock game (in the WPIAL quarterfinals), we didn’t know if we would have another home game. But the girls earned it. That kind of thing is what the girls worked hard for all year. It’s great for the fans, and we’re hoping for a really big turnout. It should be exciting.”

Corry fell to North East on Saturday in the District 10 title game. The Grape Pickers, who will host Shenango on Tuesday, won 3-0 with set scores of 25-19, 25-20 and 25-23.

Corry clinched a spot in the PIAA tournament by outlasting Saegertown in five sets in the district semifinals Nov. 2.

Phillips said the players have changed since Freeport and Corry’s last meeting, but he knows the Beavers’ style of play hasn’t changed under veteran coach Kelly Goodsel.

“Kelly and I go back at least 10 years, and we’ve matched up in good battles a lot of times in JO and AAU play and different things like that,” Phillips said.

“We’re quite familiar with each other and each other’s programs. Any time you get in the state playoffs, you know how a lot of these teams play. They are familiar because they are consistently good for a lot of years. We just need to go in there and play our game. At this point, that’s what it’s all about.”

Some names in a youthful Corry lineup to keep an eye on include sophomore middle hitter Aubrey Chase, who led the Beavers with 13 kills in the District 10 title game. Sophomore outside hitter Makenna Moore finished with nine kills and nine digs. Sophomore middle hitter Allison Sawyer had five kills, sophomore defensive specialist/outside hitter Halle Albers had nine digs, sophomore setter Payton McCray collected 18 assists and nine digs, and sophomore setter Kendyll Chamberlain recorded 12 assists and eight digs.

Freeport senior setter Cassidy Dell was big in the WPIAL title game with 16 kills and 32 assists. Sophomore outside hitter Alaina Whitlinger and junior middle hitter Josie Russo added 16 and 10 kills, respectively, while junior setter Grace Beach produced 15 assists.

“The whole team knows what we have to do to reset for Tuesday,” Dell said. “We did it last year. We’re going to come to practice (Monday) and focus on being competitive as we’ve have been all season. The good teams are left, and we know that. But our focus is only on Corry on Tuesday. Coach Phillips will definitely have us prepared for that.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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