Freeport sweeps York Catholic to claim PIAA Class 2A girls volleyball crown

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Saturday, November 19, 2022 | 3:31 PM


MECHANICSBURG — Josie Russo celebrated her 17th birthday Saturday, and she couldn’t have asked for a better gift.

The Freeport junior middle hitter’s block at match point against District 3 champion York Catholic closed out a 3-0 sweep of the Fighting Irish at Cumberland Valley High School and gave the Yellowjackets their first PIAA Class 2A state title since 2017 and the second such championship in program history.

“This is amazing,” Russo said. “We worked so hard for this. Winning WPIALs and then winning states. It is just unreal.”

The sweep — with game scores of 25-21, 25-15 and 25-18 — capped off a postseason run in which Freeport won 24 of the 27 games it played over seven match victories. The Yellowjackets added state gold to the seventh WPIAL title they won Nov. 5.

Freeport made it to the PIAA final after falling in last year’s Class 3A state semifinals.

The Yellowjackets held an early 6-2 lead in Game 3 before York Catholic battled back to 10-10 led by the hitting prowess of senior outside hitter Adeline Phillips.

The score later was tied 18-18 before a push kill from All-WPIAL senior setter Cassidy Dell gave Freeport the lead for good. Freeport coach Tom Phillips said Dell wasn’t playing at 100 percent after suffering an injury in the semifinal win over Philipsburg-Osceola.

“We weren’t sure if she was going to play today,” Phillips said. “Thank God we got a good trainer who worked on her for a couple of days. She was outstanding. Josie was terrific in the middle, and our defense was stellar.”

The Yellowjackets finished the game with a 7-0 run.

“We just realized that we had 25 more points, and with 25 more points, we were going to be state champs,” Russo said. “We thought of our ‘Refuse To Lose’ motto, and we kept pushing.”

A serve from senior libero Ava Soilis that the Fighting Irish defense was unable to return put Freeport on the cusp at 24-18, and Russo’s block ended it and ignited a mob celebration on the court.

“I was really nervous there, and when it was like 20-18 in the third set, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re gonna win this!’ ” sophomore outside hitter Alaina Whitlinger said.

Junior outside hitter Sydney Selker was understandably thrilled, too.

“My emotions are through the roof,” Selker said. “In that third set, we really had to buckle down. Even though they were coming back, we knew we were up two sets, and we wanted to finish that one because we didn’t want to go to a fourth set and give them any momentum.

“This is such a great feeling because we knew from the beginning of the year that we wanted to make it this far since we lost last year in the state semis. We worked super hard each and every day. We set goals for ourselves, and we accomplished so much. We get along so well, and I think our team chemistry is a big reason we got this far.”

York Catholic took an 18-12 lead in Game 1, and Freeport appeared to be a little out of sorts.

Phillips called a timeout to settle his players down, and it worked.

The Yellowjackets responded with an 11-1 run to take a 23-19 lead on hits from Russo, Whitlinger and sophomore Leah Schrecongost and a couple of York Catholic miscues.

A Whitlinger kill gave Freeport the lead for good at 20-19, and another Whitlinger hit that wasn’t returned by the Fighting Irish extended the Yellowjackets’ advantage to 24-20.

A York Catholic serve at 24-21 sailed beyond the end line, capping the game for Freeport.

Freeport raced out to a 12-4 lead in Game 2 before York Catholic rallied to tie the score 12-12.

Dell delivered a pair of kills to give the Yellowjackets back the lead, and a Dell serve that was not returned extended the advantage to 18-14.

Freeport kept rolling from there. It later scored the final five points of the game on a kill from Schrecongost, a block from Russo and Schrecongost, a block from Russo and Whitlinger, a Selker serve that was not returned and a Russo kill for the 25-15 final.

The state title was the second for assistant coach Claire Crytzer, a senior on the 2017 Yellowjackets title team that topped District 3’s Delone Catholic for the gold at Richland High School in Johnstown.

“I am so happy for these girls,” she said. “I know how much it means to them to be a state champion and how hard it is to get here. To see them work so hard to get here and to win it all, I am just so proud of them. They played lights out today and really earned it.”

York Catholic, making its first PIAA finals appearance, concluded its at season 23-2. The Fighting Irish’s only other loss this season came to Delone Catholic in the regular season.

“I am so proud of my team,” Fighting Irish coach Phillip Autrey said. “They’ve worked hard and battled. When we let that run go in Set One, credit Freeport as they did exactly what they needed to do to get back in the match. But we started watching what was happening on the court. In sets two and three, the girls came back to playing the kind of volleyball we do every day in the gym.

“But by that point, Freeport was running on all cylinders. It was going to be a tough battle to try and stop them. We had a couple of opportunities, but again, credit to a very good team and a very good coach who has been around for a long time and knows those situations. They deserved (to win) it.”

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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