Freeport, Plum finally cross paths in PIAA first-round volleyball match

Monday, November 8, 2021 | 6:16 PM

The Plum and Freeport girls volleyball teams shared a gym four times this season but never played an official match against each other.

The Mustangs and Yellowjackets did scrimmage in mid-August, but they missed each other at the Plum and Freeport tournaments.

The teams also got a chance to see each other in the playoffs in person last Tuesday as they both played WPIAL semifinal matchups at Gateway.

The head-to-head contest finally happens Tuesday as Freeport and Plum will meet in a PIAA Class 3A first-round game at Freeport Middle School. Opening serve is set for 6 p.m.

“We’ve seen Plum, and we know a lot about them,” said Freeport coach Tom Phillips, who helped guide his team to its sixth WPIAL title since 2010 with Saturday’s 3-1 win over section rival Hampton at Robert Morris.

“Plum has really good athletes. (Coach) Kelsey (Bonk) does a really good job with them as far as getting them to understand the game and what needs to be done and just performing at a high level on the court. They really had Hampton on the ropes with their sheer athleticism. Hampton got themselves together, but Plum played extremely well.”

Plum’s WPIAL run as the No. 7 seed ended with a 3-2 heartbreaker against Hampton. The Mustangs (17-3) led the match 2-0 before Hampton stormed back to deny them a spot in the finals.

“The girls really appreciate the fact that they are in the state playoffs,” Bonk said. “It’s not easy to get there. It’s a special thing. The girls are thankful to be where they are considering how much hard work they put in all season and how well it’s gone.”

Plum, which shared the Section 1 title with Franklin Regional and Indiana, will play a state playoff game for the first time since 1995.

Under normal qualification circumstances, the Mustangs would’ve been state-bound last year, but because of covid restrictions, only district champions advanced. Plum lost in the semifinals.

It’s been a week since Plum played Hampton. Bonk said the team used the subsequent practices to smooth out some things, and now it is prepared to play Freeport.

“The girls did a good job refocusing after the semifinals,” Bonk said. “They wish they would’ve won to get to the title game, but they recognized where they struggled a little bit and worked to improve.”

Bonk noted the consistent postseason pedigree of the Freeport program.

“Their teams always are very polished,” she said. “They aren’t going to make many dumb mistakes. No mental mistakes. They are going to serve and pass well. It’s all the things that every team strives for. We understand what we have ahead of us. It will take our very best effort.”

Freeport’s WPIAL title Saturday was its second in three years and first since moving up to Class 3A last season.

Hundreds of community members, students and other supporters turned out Saturday evening to greet the triumphant Yellowjackets players as they returned to campus.

“It was so emotional. It was tough to describe,” Phillips said. “The girls were taken aback so much. Some of them were in tears to see all of the support. I told the girls to soak it in because it is something they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

Phillips said the celebration continued for several hours. But, the next day, the focus quickly turned to Plum and the transition to states.

Freeport is seeking its first state title since 2017 when, as the WPIAL Class 2A runner-up, it defeated four district champions in the PIAA playoffs en route to the state crown.

“That’s the thing about this crazy game of volleyball and the PIAA tournament. The WPIAL championship is such an emotion high, and we had to get ready to refocus,” Phillips said.

“There is such a thing as the WPIAL hangover, and we have to do everything we can to avoid that. So many teams in my 21-year tenure have had that that hangover. There are teams out there who now want to kick our butts. Plum doesn’t want their season to end, and they will be ready to knock us off. Plum is very deserving to be there, and we have to bring our A game.”

Phillips knows that hangover feeling as Freeport’s 2016 WPIAL championship squad entered the state playoffs and suffered a 3-1 first-round loss to District 10 runner-up North East.

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

Tags: ,

More High School Sports

High school scores, summaries and schedules for Dec. 4, 2021
Trib HSSN 2021-22 WPIAL Class 6A girls basketball preseason breakdown
Trib HSSN 2021-22 WPIAL Class 6A boys basketball preseason breakdown
Plum’s Kaitlyn Killinger chosen as Valley News Dispatch Girls Soccer Player of the Year
Plum’s Luke Kolankowski selected as Valley News Dispatch Boys Soccer Player of the Year

click me