Freeport sweeps into PIAA girls volleyball quarterfinals
By: Michael Love
Tuesday, November 7, 2017 | 10:51 PM
CRESSON — The Freeport girls volleyball team ran the gamut of emotions after Saturday's five-set loss to Beaver in the WPIAL Class AA championship game.
But the Yellowjackets players turned sadness into determination in the two days that followed as they focused their attention on new life in the PIAA tournament.
Freeport, no stranger to state-playoff volleyball, took its first steps in a journey it hopes turns to gold with a 3-0 triumph Tuesday over District 6 champion Bald Eagle Area in the first round at Penn Cambria High School.
“Losing the WPIAL championship match gave us a lot of motivation,” junior opposite hitter Ally DeJidas said. “We didn't want this season to be over. We came out hard and played well. It was a tough match.”
The win puts Freeport (22-3) in the state quarterfinals for the third time in five years since they went to the head-to-head format. The Yellowjackets hope the third time is the charm after losses in the round of eight in both 2013 (Fort LeBoeuf) and 2015 (Somerset).
Freeport will play District 10 champion Corry on Saturday at a time and site to be determined.
“A lot of kids stepped up,” Freeport coach Tom Phillips said. “We were able to stay in our system and were able to get it. We wanted to leave with a good feeling.
“When you get to this point, everybody is good. You have to bring your game and play well. It's just a matter of figuring teams out. I think it took a game to get our feet under us, but once we did that, we were fine.”
Bald Eagle Area, in the state playoffs for the first time since 2014, finished its season at 19-1. The Eagles had dropped only nine games all season before Tuesday's Freeport sweep.
The first and third games went to the wire, as the Yellowjackets recorded a pair of 25-23 victories.
Freeport rallied from a 19-14 deficit in Game 1, and that energized the players to score a 25-15 win in Game 2.
“We were able to start slowing their middles down a little bit,” Phillips said. “When they stay in system, they run their middles a lot. We worked on that all day (Monday) in practice.”
Game 3 featured 11 ties. Freeport's largest lead of the match was three points at 8-5 and 9-6. BEA kept answering every Yellowjackets attempt to pull away.
Eagles sophomore outside hitter Grace Hugar, who had 20 kills in her team's District 6 title victory over West Shamokin, started to take over at the end of Game 3.
Hugar recorded four kills and a block in a 5-1 run that gave the Eagles a 22-20 lead. A Freeport four-hits violation put BEA up 23-20 and closer to a Game 3 win. But a service error allowed the Yellowjackets to pull within two, and a Hugar kill attempt landed just wide as Freeport made it 23-22.
The officials huddled after the Hugar swing to determine if a Yellowjackets players touched the ball before it landed out of bounds. The officials ruled that no Freeport player had touched the ball.
DeJidas (2) and senior outside hitter Hannah Mason delivered kills to close the game and the match.
The first DeJidas kill was returned by a BEA defender, but the ball hit a ceiling support beam and landed on the Freeport side of the court. By rule, play was stopped, and the point was awarded to the Yellowjackets.
Freeport took a 24-23 lead on Mason's kill, and with senior libero Claire Crytzer continuing to serve, DeJidas ended the match with a spike at the net that fell to the court beyond the outstretched arms of a pair of Eagles defenders.
“We competed really well in that third set after kind of getting washed out of the second set,” Bald Eagle Area coach Larry Campbell said. “We didn't pack it in. We sided out well and were tied a number of times. We just weren't able to close it out. Freeport is a really good team.”
Hugar finished with 10 kills for the Eagles.
“(Hugar) got some great swings,” Phillips said. “She's a great player. We were able to play some good defense, and that's what it's all about.”
DeJidas finished with 13 kills for Freeport, and Mason and junior middle hitter Sarah Hettich tallied nine kills apiece.
“We just wanted to do everything we could to not have to play a Game 4,” DeJidas said.