Freeport girls volleyball in good position for playoffs

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Tuesday, October 26, 2021 | 5:49 PM


The Freeport girls volleyball team feels right at home in the WPIAL playoffs.

The Yellowjackets haven’t missed the postseason in close to two decades, and they find themselves the hunted as the No. 1 seed in Class AAA as they shoot for their second WPIAL championship in three years, their first in Class AAA and their sixth overall since 2010.

“I think we are set up pretty well this year for playoffs,” senior hitter/defensive specialist Erica Lampus said.

“We’ve been able to overcome adversities with injuries and sickness this year, but the whole team has worked hard together. That has helped us a lot, and I think we are looking better every day.”

The Yellowjackets open tournament play Wednesday at 6 p.m. at North Catholic High School against No. 16 Hopewell.

The Vikings defeated No. 17 Uniontown, 3-1, in a preliminary-round game Monday at West Allegheny.

Freeport and the other teams in the bracket will be hoping to unseat defending champion Franklin Regional. The Section 1 co-champion Panthers are seeded sixth and host Montour on Wednesday.

The last time Freeport was the No. 1 seed was in 2018. The Yellowjackets lost to Frazier in the semifinals, but they were one of four teams to qualify for states in WPIAL Class AA.

Freeport upended WPIAL champ North Catholic in the PIAA quarterfinals before losing to eventual state champ Bald Eagle Area in the semifinals.

“We are trying to not focus on being the No. 1 seed,” Lampus said. “Obviously, we are happy about it, but we just have to focus on the game right in front of us and not worry about who is up next or who is down the line. We can’t look too far ahead.”

Last year, four teams — Freeport, Hampton, Armstrong and Mars — finished in a tie for the Section 5-AAA title at 9-3. The Yellowjackets were slotted as the No. 11 seed for the playoffs and suffered tough 3-1 first-round loss to Laurel Highlands.

This year, Freeport coach Tom Phillips said, the section was just as competitive.

The Yellowjackets split with Hampton. The Talbots won 3-2 on Sept. 16, and Freeport triumphed 3-2 in a spirited rematch at home Oct. 12. The teams went on to share the section title with 11-1 records.

“I think those five-game matches with Hampton are things that will really help us work through the grind of the playoffs,” Lampus said. “That win against Hampton was great. Our whole student section was there cheering us on, and they were loud. After the game, we all celebrated together, and it was really nice to be able to pull out that win for the 17th section championship in a row.”

Freeport won its final eight section matches and beat Burrell and Armstrong by 3-0 scores last week to cap section play. The Western Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association on Monday released its final classification rankings for the regular season, and the Yellowjackets found themselves at No. 1.

Hampton enters the Class AAA tournament as the No. 3 seed, Armstrong is No. 5 and Mars is seeded 13th.

“I feel our section again was one of the strongest in the WPIAL, where night in and night out, you had to come prepared,” Phillips said. “We had to bring our best and prepare really well to get a win. The playoffs are the same way.”

In addition to the section and nonsection matchups, Phillips pointed to the series of tournaments Freeport entered as strong tests of the team’s abilities.

The Yellowjackets came away with titles at the Plum tournament and its own tournament Oct. 2 and made the semifinals of the season-opening Franklin Regional tournament.

“They were good, quality tournaments that allowed us to see and play against a number of different styles of offense and defense,” Phillips said. “At our tournament, we beat a pretty good DuBois team (from District 9) in the finals which is really dominating out their way.”

Phillips said he hopes his team can get healthier as the playoffs progress.

Sophomore middle hitter Josie Russo returned to the lineup for the Armstrong match last Thursday that capped the regular season. Junior outside hitter Amber Shirey also returned last week.

Senior middle hitter Sam Wuyscik, Phillips said, has missed the past five weeks with injury.

“Those were major hits to the lineup this season, and it forced us to change up our lineup and change up some of the things we wanted to do. But it gave some other girls opportunities, and they have stepped up and really help carry us through,” Phillips said.

“That is the true definition of a team.”

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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