Freeport refocuses, gets set for PIAA volleyball quarterfinals

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Friday, November 8, 2019 | 4:59 PM


After two emotional and physically draining five-set matches to cap the WPIAL playoffs, senior outside hitter Lauren Lampus and the other Freeport girls volleyball team members were happy to take care of business in straightforward fashion Tuesday in the first round of the PIAA tournament.

The WPIAL champion Yellowjackets took control early against District 9 champion Brookville and didn’t take their foot off the gas until Lampus ended the match with a kill that deflected off of two defenders before hitting Shaler’s gym floor.

“It was great to see us come out so strong and be able to refocus and get back in the grove after the WPIAL playoffs,” said Lampus, whose kill also ended the first set of Tuesday’s match.

The three-game sweep kept Freeport’s mission alive for a second Class AA state title and propelled it to Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup with Beaver Area. The Yellowjackets return to Shaler for the noon start.

While it might be tempting to look ahead to a possible WPIAL finals rematch with North Catholic or a rematch of last year’s PIAA semifinals with defending state champion Bald Eagle Area, the Yellowjackets players, senior setter/opposite hitter Samantha Clark said, are focused squarely on Saturday’s match with the Bobcats.

“We know how much of a challenge each team is in the state playoffs,” she said. “We’ve seen it before. We know teams want to beat us because of what we’ve done in the past, but that also pushes us and motivates us.”

Bald Eagle Area and North Catholic face off in the other Western quarterfinal Saturday at noon at Forest Hills High School.

“We have our hands full enough with the Beaver Bobcats and what they do well, which is a lot,” Freeport coach Tom Phillips said.

Beaver, the No. 4 team from the WPIAL, fell to North Catholic in four sets in the WPIAL semifinals. The 17-2 Bobcats, in the PIAA playoffs after a one-year hiatus, bounced back Tuesday with a four-set victory over District 4 champion North Star.

“I’ve watch a lot on them, and we’ve developed a gameplan,” Phillips said. “At this point in the game, defense is key, and you have to serve aggressive and set up an effective attack. Those are components to winning championships, and we’ve done that well.”

While Freeport boasts a senior-laden lineup, Beaver is a younger group with just two seniors.

Phillips said there are many aspects of the Beaver team to keep an eye on, and a keen focus often is paid to 5-foot-11 junior outside hitter Eden McElhaney.

“We have to know where she is on the court at all times, and looking for matchups with her is the big thing,” Phillips said. “But they also have a pretty good lefty on the right side (5-11 junior Emilee Hohenshel). Their middles are young but very athletic. They have a setter (junior Talia Gallagher) with experience. We have to pick up on their tendencies and take advantage of them.”

Beaver and Freeport have recent history against each other.

Freeport, as the No. 2 seed, beat No. 1 Beaver for the 2016 WPIAL title.

The Bobcats turned the tables in 2017, topping the Yellowjackets in a five-game WPIAL finals classic. Freeport would get the last laugh, however, defeating Beaver in four games in the PIAA semifinals to punch its ticket to the title game.

The Yellowjackets also advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals in two previous trips as the WPIAL champion — 2013 and 2015. They were eliminated at that point both times, a trend they obviously hope to buck on Saturday.

“That speaks to how competitive the state playoffs are each year,” Phillips said. “Every team wants to be a state champion. We were there two years ago, and these girls want to experience that feeling again.”

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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