Freeport girls soccer looks for leg up in tight section race

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019 | 6:33 PM


The Freeport girls soccer team began its season with cautious optimism as youth was served in several areas on the field and paired up with veteran talent.

Right out of the gate, the Yellowjackets put six goals on the board and pitched a shutout in their opener against Highlands on Sept. 4.

They did it again two days later with a 6-0 victory at Apollo-Ridge, a 2018 playoff qualifier.

It was a strong start for a team that has aspirations to again be a factor in the title chase in Section 2-AA.

“I wasn’t 100 percent sure how we were going to start,” said Freeport coach Brittni Grenninger, who saw her team improve to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in section play with Monday’s 7-0 win at East Allegheny.

“We have a very young team, with several freshmen in key roles, but it’s a very skilled team. Until you get one or two games under your belt, you’re just not sure how they are going to mesh or how they will adapt to the speed of the game at the high school level. With a number of these girls coming off a U13 or U14 club seasons, we didn’t know how they would match up against 17 or 18 year olds.”

Grenninger said she was pleasantly surprised by the outcomes.

“It was positive for our goalkeeper and defense to know they could hold good teams to a shutout,” she said. “The offense also alleviated a lot of that pressure by putting six away each time.”

The Yellowjackets hope to keep rolling at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday as rival Burrell comes to Freeport High School for the first of two highly anticipated section meetings.

Freeport owned eight straight wins over the Bucs from 2014 to 2017. Burrell won the first meeting last year, and the teams tied in the rematch. The Bucs went on to finish runner-up in the section to Deer Lakes.

“With these two teams, it’s been a rivalry for some time,” Grenninger said. “With the success each team has had, it puts even more anticipation on this game. Games like these, you show up at the field, and there’s just something in the air.”

Burrell, No. 3 in the Trib Class AA rankings, owns an identical 6-0 overall record and a 4-0 mark in section.

“With so many young players, it was great to see us clicking right away and able to get those shutouts and those wins,” senior Kylie Hoffman said. “It was big for the confidence of the team and what we’ve been building to with these big games coming up.”

After Wednesday’s clash, the challenge remains as Freeport travels to Deer Lakes on Monday.

The Yellowjackets players and coaches were on hand Sept. 9 at Burrell as the Bucs defeated the Lancers by a 5-1 score. It was Deer Lakes’ lone loss in six games so far this season.

“I didn’t expect that game to be so lopsided. Both teams are really high quality,” Grenninger said. “It didn’t look like Deer Lakes had their best game that night, but Burrell looked like a fantastic team that can move the ball quickly.”

Senior Sidney Shemanski leads the Yellowjackets with 11 goals and nine assists through six games, while sophomore Emma Check has six goals and six assists.

Freshmen Aleah Parison (5 goals), Crystal Zembrzuski (4), Akina Boynton (3) and Katie Borromeo (1), along with Hoffman (1) and junior Kaylin Greiser (1) have also scored.

The defense and sophomore goalkeeper Maddy Zarichnak have surrendered just three goals.

Grenninger said she was impressed with the way her girls rallied around each other for Saturday’s 3-2 nonsection win at District 10 Class AA power Slippery Rock behind goals from Borromeo, Parison and Check.

The Yellowjackets were coming off a 4-1 win over Class AAA Shaler two days earlier that avenged a 4-1 loss last year.

“(Slippery Rock) was a huge win for us,” Grenninger said. “The girls were coming off a big win against a 3A school, and it was their third game in four days, so they were dragging a little bit. We were tied 1-1 at halftime, and the girls found a way to dig deep with really tired legs and beat a quality program.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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