Freeport rallies to knock off Avonworth in WPIAL volleyball playoffs

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Thursday, October 31, 2019 | 9:23 PM


The Freeport girls volleyball team hadn’t faced adversity this season like it did Thursday in a WPIAL Class AA semifinal match against Avonworth at North Allegheny.

The Yellowjackets had lost only one game through their first 16 matches, but they stared in the face of a 2-0 deficit against the Antelopes.

But Freeport, playing in the WPIAL semifinals for the seventh year in a row, were not to be denied as they rallied to post a dramatic 3-2 victory.

“It was tough going down in the match like we did, but we put it in our minds that we weren’t going to lose,” said senior Mackensey Jack, whose kill at match point in Game 5 sealed the win.

Freeport, which improved to 17-0, advances to Saturday’s WPIAL title game at 2 p.m. at Fox Chapel and will seek its first WPIAL title since 2016. The Yellowjackets return to the WPIAL finals after falling to Frazier in the semifinals last year.

“Losing in the semifinals last year gave us a lot of motivation to come back and get (to the finals),” said Jack, who led the Yellowjackets with 15 kills.

“We didn’t want to have that feeling again, so we just had to stay focused and intense but also calm and just do what we knew we could do to get the win.”

Seniors Isabella Russo and Tori Radvan added 13 and 10 kills, respectively.

Avonworth put Freeport’s backs against the wall with a 26-24 win in Game 1 and a 25-17 victory in Game 2.

But the Yellowjackets rose to the occasion with a convincing 25-16 triumph in Game 3 and tied the match with a 25-22 win in Game 4.

Freeport led from beginning to end in Game 5, and kills from Radvan, Russo and Lauren Lampus helped open an 11-5 advantage.

A block from Russo, an Avonworth attack error and an ace from Emily Schmidt brought the Yellowjackets to the brink of victory and set up Jack’s match-ending hit into the heart of the Antelopes defense.

“The first two games, they had us figured out,” Freeport coach Tom Phillips said. “They no doubt watched a lot of film on us. We changed our complete rotation in Game 3, and that really made a difference. We went to something that we hadn’t run all year, and it worked. I am so happy for the girls the way they stuck with it.”

Sixth-seeded Avonworth, in the semifinals for the first time since 2017, fell to 13-6 overall and will look to regroup for the PIAA playoffs that begin Tuesday. The Antelopes played three consecutive five-set matches in the WPIAL tournament.

Senior hitter Mackenna Gavin, a Gannon commit, led Avonworth with 30 kills, while Katherine Goetz added 10 kills in the loss.

“We definitely came out confident and surprised Freeport a little bit,” Avonworth coach Sarah Doherty said. “We were playing really good volleyball. We were patient and resilient and weren’t getting rattled when they scored points. But Freeport is such an experienced team, and they stepped up, made adjustments and just played better volleyball than us for the rest of the match.”

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

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