Freeport volleyball avoids WPIAL title hangover, beats Plum in PIAA 1st-round match

Tuesday, November 9, 2021 | 10:02 PM

Freeport girls volleyball coach Tom Phillips has always worried about the potential for a “hangover” from winning a WPIAL championship going into the first round of the state tournament.

The emotional high of winning a district crown can be tough to replicate just a couple days later, but the Yellowjackets found the right elixir to avoid a sluggish start Tuesday night.

Freeport opened the match by scoring the first nine points, setting the tone for a 3-0 sweep of Plum in the first round of the PIAA Class 3A playoffs at Freeport Middle School.

“The first game our girls came out with a little bit of fire,” Phillips said. “We knew that Plum was a good team with some good athletes and that they weren’t going to lay down. No hangover for us today.”

Freeport (17-1) advanced to play Twin Valley, the third-place team from District 3, in the quarterfinals Saturday at a site and time to be determined. Plum finished 16-4.

The Yellowjackets, who won their sixth overall WPIAL volleyball crown and first in Class 3A on Saturday, raced out to a double-digit lead and it ballooned from there. They led 23-7 after a Sydney Selker kill and eventually took the set 25-15.

Josie Russo led the way with five kills for the Yellowjackets in the first set. They also forced Plum to commit 11 errors.

“It was a bad set,” Plum coach Kelsey Bonk said. “We played very, very bad, but I said to the girls that we needed to come back and regroup. I respect the fact that our girls did not lay down and die after that first set. We played a very good second set and pushed them in the third. They are just a very polished team. We knew what we were getting into.”

Plum fought back in the second, holding a lead for the majority of the set and were two points away from evening the match, but Freeport stormed back. Trailing 23-20, Freeport went on a 4-0 run to take the lead. An ace from Plum’s Caroline Hunter tied the score, but a hitting error and a block by Autumn English secured a 26-24 win for Freeport.

“They had us out of system for the entire first set, but in the second set we got back into system,” Bonk said. “Sometimes we just couldn’t put the ball away or outlast them in the long rallies. That’s what you have to do to win.”

Erica Lampus had a strong third set for Freeport with six kills. Plum led 14-13 in the third, but a Selker kill tied the match. Freeport went on to score the next four points and never trailed again in a 25-18 win. A service ace by Grace Beach closed out the match.

Russo finished with 10 kills for the Yellowjackets, and she had several blocks from the middle of the net.

“Josie is getting better and better,” Phillips said. “She’s only a sophomore, and she’s going to be an outstanding volleyball player.”

Dannika Susko, a junior, paced Plum with nine kills and two blocks.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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