Defending state champion Freeport ousted in PIAA Class AA volleyball semifinals
By: Michael Love
Tuesday, November 13, 2018 | 9:06 PM
There will be no PIAA championship repeat for the Freeport girls volleyball team.
District 6 champion Bald Eagle Area kept its undefeated season going and put an end to the Yellowjackets’ campaign with a 3-1 victory Tuesday evening in the PIAA Class AA semifinals at Clarion Area High School.
The Eagles (22-0) won Game 1 by a 25-16 score before Freeport rallied to win 25-23 in Game 2.
But Bald Eagle Area scored a 25-18 victory in Game 3 before closing out the match 25-15 in Game 4.
“We play well when we’re having fun, and we’re loose and we’re free,” Eagles coach Larry Campbell said. “When we do that, with the talent we have and the mental toughness those kids have, they are a pretty tough out. You saw that tonight in set three and set four.”
Freeport had won six straight PIAA matches before Tuesday’s result.
“We were too helter-skelter, chasing our tails all over the place,” Freeport coach Tom Phillips said. “We didn’t perform well tonight. Take nothing away from Bald Eagle Area. They are a good team. But did we play the way we normally play? No. Basic 101, you must pass the volleyball, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Bald Eagle will play in its first state championship match. The Eagles will face District 2 champion Holy Redeemer for the title Saturday afternoon at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg.
Holy Redeemer ousted 2017 state finalist Delone Catholic in the semifinals Tuesday.
Freeport and BEA met for the second year in a row. The Yellowjackets handed the Eagles their lone loss last year with a 3-0 decision in the PIAA first round.
The Yellowjackets, the No. 4 seed from the WPIAL, conclude their season at 18-4. Freeport had first swept District 9 champion Redbank Valley on Nov. 6 and then downed WPIAL champion North Catholic in an emotional five-set thriller Saturday to arrive at Tuesday’s semifinal match.
“We talked about highs and lows, and any time you come off a high like (North Catholic) and come back and play a game like this, it’s not easy,” Phillips said. “You have to clean the slate and start out fresh. I don’t think we did that tonight.”
Bald Eagle Area stopped WPIAL No. 3 Serra Catholic in the first round and swept 2016 state champion Corry in the quarterfinals.
“It hasn’t been an easy path for us,” Campbell said. “I give the girls a lot of credit. They played tough tonight.”
Game 1 was tied at seven before BEA used a mini 4-0 spurt to take an 11-7 lead. Another 4-0 run later in the game extended the Eagles advantage to 23-15.
Junior outside hitter Grace Hugar had five kills for BEA in Game 1, and two of them came on the final two points to finish off the 25-16 victory.
Hugar, the team leader in kills this season, finished with 16 Tuesday.
“We were able to spread things out and run a quicker tempo in the middle, I felt it caused a lot of seams and gaps and put a lot of pressure on them defensively,” Campbell said.
Freeport was faced with a 7-2 deficit in Game 2, but the Yellowjackets didn’t fade away and mounted a 9-2 run to take an 11-9 lead.
Their lead grew to as much as six at 16-10, and they held off a BEA rally late in the game to score the 25-23 win.
“Give Freeport credit. They battled their rear ends off,” Campbell said. “They are the defending state champions. They weren’t going to quit.”
But the Eagles proved to be too much, and another 7-2 lead in Game 3 turned into as much as an eight-point advantage at 20-12.
On game point, Hugar delivered a hit that the Freeport defense was unable to return.
Kills from Hugar, junior outside hitter Lacee Barnhardt and junior middle hitter Taylor Kilmer early in Game 4 helped the Eagles to a 9-5 advantage.
Hitting points from Mackensey Jack, Lauren Lampus and Ally DeJidas helped keep the Yellowjackets within range, but BEA started to pull away.
A pair of aces made it 19-9, and a couple of Freeport miscues at the net and on serve put the Eagles on the cusp.
Two Hugar soft tap kills at the net put BEA at match point, and Hugar ended Game 4 and the match with a rocket shot that deflected off the arm of a Freeport defender and out of play.
Barnhart and Kilmer each added 13 kills for the Eagles, while DeJidas had 12 kills to lead Freeport.
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-388-5825, email@example.com or via Twitter @MLove_Trib.