Freeport girls soccer team uses grit to chase section title

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Tuesday, September 20, 2022 | 9:29 PM


In the first game of the year on the first day of this month, the Freeport girls soccer team faced a sizeable deficit to rival Deer Lakes.

The Yellowjackets trailed the Lancers 2-0 and appeared headed to a defeat in their Section 2-2A opener.

But something sparked with the Freeport players, including the significant group of experienced veterans, and they rallied to win in overtime, 3-2.

“There definitely was some adversity in that game, for sure,” Freeport senior forward Akina Boynton said.

“We were like, “Alright, we’ve got to fight back.’ That was a really good show of our character that we just didn’t give up. We got the first goal, and then the second. From there, we had our heads back in the game, and we were able to pull it off.”

Two more comebacks – against Shaler at the Highlands tournament and Monday against Knoch in a spirited section matchup – have contributed to the Yellowjackets’ undefeated record through seven games.

Wins over Burrell, 2-0; Apollo-Ridge, 4-1; and Valley, 3-0; have contributed to a 5-0 first-place mark in the section standings.

“As our coach always reminds us, we need to always be working on things, and we see that, too,” Boynton said.

“We want to find ways to get better every day. There’s always more to prove. We have certainly not gotten to our goal, even though it is exciting we are first in our section now. We’ve passed some tests, but there still are more to face.

“The seniors want to make our final year extra special. We’ve been working at this for four years now. We have so many seniors starting, and others are coming off the bench. We also have younger players who are really contributing. It’s a really nice mix.”

Freeport hosts Highlands on Wednesday to end the first cycle of section play. The Yellowjackets are in position to challenge for their first section title since 2017, when they went 11-0-1 in Section 2 and made the WPIAL Class 2A semifinals.

The Yellowjackets visit Deer Lakes (5-3, 2-3) on Monday to start the second half of section play.

“We have unfinished business,” said senior forward Aleah Parison, an all-section selection last year with Boynton.

“We have to go into every game confident but not overconfident and play well as a team. You never know what can happen, especially in this section.”

Last year, Freeport went 3-1-1 down the stretch in section play to earn the No. 4 spot in the section (4-5-1) to the WPIAL playoffs.

They bowed out of the postseason with a 4-0 first-round loss to South Park.

“We worked hard to get into the playoffs last year, and, after the season, we talked a lot about what we needed to do to get better,” senior forward Crystal Zembrzuski said.

“We got right to it in November. A lot of us got on the field a lot through our cup teams, and we also got together a lot as a team. We lost some great seniors from last year’s team, but, with all we had coming back, we were determined to make a section run.”

Knoch, which dropped down from Class 3A and into Section 2, came into Monday’s matchup with Freeport 4-2 overall and 2-0 in the section.

The Knights got on the board first with a goal on a penalty kick with about 30 minutes left. Freeport responded as Zembrzuski tied the game about five minutes later.

About 10 minutes after the Zembrzuski goal, Freeport got a free kick just outside the 18. Boynton buried the opportunity to give the Yellowjackets the lead.

“It was a great win for us because Knoch is a great team,” Zembrzuski said.

“They came in strong wanting to beat us and brought a ton of pressure. But we just brought so much energy. Coming from behind was tough, but we knew we needed this one. The defense was so strong, and we even kept it in their half for the last half of the second half. They just couldn’t get through us. Their players were getting frustrated, and we just had so much momentum. Every game is so important in our goal to win the section title.”

Freeport coach Joe Treglia said the final 12 to 15 minutes was a grind to finish out the win.

“It definitely was a playoff feel. But all the games in the section feel like that,” he said.

“With all the seniors we have and everyone with a lot of game experience, they are battle tested. I don’t think anything rattles them. In years past, they might have gotten a little more rattled if they went down 1-0. This year, they keep on each other to keep the tempo up, the emotion up. They’ve faced everything, from past seasons to this season. They always fight, and that’s what makes this group special.”

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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