Dominant Freeport sweeps Quaker Valley, moves one step closer to state title

Saturday, November 12, 2022 | 5:35 PM

The Freeport girls volleyball team took one step closer to its ultimate goal of winning the program’s second state title with a dominant performance in the quarterfinals.

The Yellowjackets built early leads in each set and rolled to a 3-0 sweep over Quaker Valley on Saturday at North Allegheny.

Freeport advanced to play District 6 champion Phillipsburg-Oceola in the Class 2A state semifinals Tuesday.

“We played exceptional today,” Freeport coach Tom Phillips said. “Josie (Russo) dominated in the middle. Both of our middles did. I thought Hadley Hellgren played a great game as well. We came to play today. It was an all-around total effort.”

The Yellowjackets won 25-17, 25-16, 25-21 in a rematch of a WPIAL semifinal, which they also won via a sweep.

Freeport took the lead 5-4 in the first set and never relinquished it.

Russo had three kills and a couple of blocks in the first set. Sydney Selker, Hellgren and Leah Schrecongost also had kills in the first.

Freeport was also boosted by four aces from the service line, including back-to-back aces by Ava Soilis, which made it 7-4. Alaina Whitlinger and Schrecongost also had aces.

“We knew coming in that Game 1 was very important,” Phillips said. “(Quaker Valley) is a really good team. The lefty (Annica Kagle) and (Amalia) MacDonald on the right side are two solid players that you have to account for at all times. We worked hard this week on a lot of things preparing for them.

“We scrimmaged them at the beginning of the season, then we played them in the (WPIAL) playoffs and then again. Sometimes you have to be careful you don’t overthink things or take things for granted. But we came to play today.”

In Freeport’s WPIAL semifinal match with Quaker Valley, the Quakers pushed the issue in the second set and led late before the Yellowjackets rallied to win 25-23.

In the rematch Saturday, Freeport took a 7-6 lead and stretched it out from there.

Part of the reason the Yellowjackets could keep the Quakers at arm’s length was the play in the middle by Russo and Hellgren with help from good sets by Grace Beach and Cassidy Dell.

“Cassidy and I have been working really hard in the middle getting that quick set,” Russo said. “We worked on it practice yesterday and also worked on going against double blocks, because we knew Quaker Valley would have double blocks. We worked on hitting around the block and having a fast tempo. It really paid off.”

Russo finished with nine kills, Selker had six and Hellgren recorded four.

Quaker Valley stayed close to Freeport in the third set and got it to 23-20 after a kill by Kagle. Selker won the next point with a kill, however, after a long volley back and forth, which saw the ball go over the net a dozen times to make it 24-20. Whitlinger got match point on a kill that ricocheted off a Quaker Valley block attempt before falling to the ground.

“(Freeport) is very good and very disciplined,” Quaker Valley coach Mike Vavrek said. “They do a lot of good things, and they don’t make mistakes. You can’t make mistakes, and you have to play extremely good volleyball if you’re going to beat them.”

Freeport is having its team banquet Sunday. Then the Yellowjackets will turn the focus towards advancing to the state finals. The Yellowjackets won the Class 2A state title in 2017.

“We’re going to hit it hard on Monday and see where we land on Tuesday,” Phillips said.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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