Defending champion Freeport girls advance to WPIAL title game

Thursday, November 2, 2017 | 11:42 PM

Freeport ran away from Serra Catholic in Game 1 of Thursday's WPIAL Class AA semifinal at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic.

The No. 1-seeded Yellowjackets were consistent with their hitting and defense and forced seven Eagles errors in a match-opening 25-11 win.

But Serra didn't go away and pushed Freeport to the limit in Games 2 and 3.

In the end, however, the Yellowjackets made enough plays in each game to hold off the Eagles and win 3-0. The back-to-back 25-23 results finished off the sweep.

“It was a great battle the whole night,” said senior libero Claire Crytzer, who had five aces. “We talked in pregame about having to work for every point. It was very low-error volleyball, especially in those last two games.”

Freeport advances to Saturday's WPIAL championship game against Beaver at Baldwin High School.

The Yellowjackets will attempt to secure a third straight title, their fourth in the past five seasons and fifth in program history.

Freeport and Beaver will meet in the finals for the second year in a row. The Bobcats outlasted Avonworth, 3-2, in the semifinals.

Serra, led by junior All-WPIAL and all-state outside hitter Julia Piccolino, played in a semifinal match for the second time in three years. WPIAL alignment moved the Eagles up to Class AA before last season.

All four semifinal teams have qualified for the PIAA tournament. Serra will compete at states for the first time.

“In Games 2 and 3, you saw two really skilled teams competing at a high level, from passing, to setting to attacking,” Serra Catholic coach Keith Trahan said. “Freeport is such a good team, and you have to play clean volleyball to beat them. We just had a few too many errors, and they got some big swings when they needed them.”

The Yellowjackets rallied from a couple of deficits in Game 2, including 18-16. They hoped the win might have taken the wind out of the Eagles' sails.

But Serra came out in Game 3 and grabbed an early advantage with leads of 7-4, 11-9 and 18-17.

There were 10 ties in the closely-contested third game, and Freeport took the lead for good at 19-18 after a kill and a service ace from senior outside hitter Hannah Mason on consecutive points.

With the help of a two kills each from junior Ally DiJidas and sophomore outside hitter Lauren Lampus and an additional kill from senior setter Courtney Grubbs, Freeport held its biggest lead of the game at 24-20.

Senior Olivia D'Andrea kept Serra alive with back-to-back kills to pull the No. 4 Eagles to within 24-22. A Freeport hitting error then made it 24-23.

But Lampus delivered a hit at the net that a pair of Serra blockers were not able to handle. The ball deflected off of their hands and out of bounds to put Game 3 on ice and put Freeport into Saturday's finals.

“We were fired up in the locker room and during warmups,” Mason said. “We wanted to come out and set the tone, and we were able to do that. It wasn't easy the rest of the way, but we got the points we needed and got the win.”

Freeport coach Tom Phillips said he was pleased with the way his players battled and responded to every Serra push.

“We just needed to slow down a little bit and realize we had to side out,” he said. “We had to pass, we had to set and stay in system. As long as we stay in system, we're fine. That's what we were able to do.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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