Freeport volleyball seniors determined to return to top

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Sunday, September 22, 2019 | 6:04 PM


Freeport setter Madeline Clark can still recall the feeling of walking off the floor after last year’s WPIAL semifinal loss to Frazier that ended the Yellowjackets’ 3-year run of making the district title game.

“I remember the disappointment,” Clark said. “It just hurt so much. I hate losing so much.”

The feeling was similar when a couple of weeks later Bald Eagle bounced the Yellowjackets in the PIAA semifinals, ending a bid for a second consecutive state title.

In a year where the Yellowjackets battled through the adversity of having three major contributors miss significant time due to injuries, they came close to their goals. Now that they are healthy, seven experienced seniors are hopeful to get the program back to the top.

“We were really angry after losing that game (against Frazier), and it definitely has motivated us for this season,” Clark said. “We want to get all the way to the finals this season, especially with it being our senior year and really our final year all together.”

The Yellowjackets have gotten off to their typical strong start, going 6-0 (5-0 in Section 5-AA) entering Tuesday’s match at rival Deer Lakes.

Clark, along with her twin sister Samantha, an opposite hitter, defensive specialist Cora Crytzer, middle hitters Mackensey Jack and Isabella Russo and outside hitters Lauren Lampus and Tori Radvan are the seven returning seniors. They are all captains.

All seven have seen ample time in big games, and coach Tom Phillips couldn’t be happier with the group he has on the floor.

“These seven girls have been really committed to this program,” Phillips said. “I expect great things from them this year, because I know how much they’ve put into this. They have been the cornerstone to this program for the last five years. I enjoy watching them play, because when they play like I know they can play it is like poetry in motion.”

Phillips is hopeful the injury bug from last year has left their gym.

Radvan went down with a season-ending knee injury in the opener last year and now-graduated Haley Graham and Sarah Hettich missed parts of the year with knee and ankle injuries, respectively. Radvan is back healthy and in the lineup.

The Yellowjackets have made the PIAA tournament six consecutive years, a feat that isn’t lost on the current group. Every one of the seven seniors started playing in seventh grade and they’ve seen the successes of the teams before them.

“It’s instilled from us from a young age to come in and work hard every single day,” Crytzer said. “Just getting to be part of a program like us, it’s instilled in us to want to win every game no matter who we are playing.”

Freeport has had a couple of good tests in the first few weeks. They won the Plum tournament, beating the host Mustangs in the final, and got a solid battle from section rival Burrell on Tuesday. The Yellowjackets won 3-0, but each set was close. Burrell led 24-17 in the second set, but Freeport closed with a 9-0 run to take it, 26-24.

The comeback was something Phillips knew his team had in them and expects them to have the same resolve once the postseason approaches.

“All these girls know what it takes to get there,” Phillips said. “They were all on that state championship floor. They’ve been through WPIAL championships and state championships. Now, it’s their turn as seniors. I feel like they’ll be a tough out for anybody. I wouldn’t want to play them. The big thing for us is to stay healthy, and we’re all thankful that so far that they’ve stayed healthy.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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