Freeport volleyball set for high-stakes rematch with North Catholic

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Monday, November 11, 2019 | 7:23 PM


As the Freeport girls volleyball team was taking care of Beaver on Saturday in a PIAA Class AA quarterfinal at Shaler, North Catholic and defending PIAA champion Bald Eagle Area squared off for another spot in the state semifinals.

The Yellowjackets’ sweep of the Bobcats propelled them into the PIAA final four for the third year in a row and third time in school history.

It also set up a high-level rematch. But would it be against a BEA team that bounced Freeport from last year’s state playoffs in the semifinal round? Or would it be a return clash against a North Catholic team that lost to the Yellowjackets in an five-game WPIAL final?

The Trojanettes provided an emphatic answer with a 3-1 victory over the Eagles to secure a second match with Freeport. The WPIAL heavyweights will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at North Allegheny with a spot in the state finals on the line.

“It was kind of mixed throughout the team about who we wanted to play,” said senior hitter Mackensey Jack.

“But our main motivation was to get back to the semifinals and then prepare well for that team. Just getting here is a huge accomplishment, and we’re ready to face North Catholic. I’m sure they are excited to play us again. It should be an exciting match.”

Freeport coach Tom Phillips said the key to making it back to this point after last year’s loss to Bald Eagle Area was the desire and determination of the team from the seniors on down.

“The summertime conditioning, the track workouts when it was 85 degrees, weight room work before the season even started, all the workouts and practices in the gym, this now is where that all pays off,” Phillips said. “These girls had goals and expectations to be playing at this point. This is what we’ve worked for.

“We’ve talked a lot about conditioning and how the work we put in allowed us to keep going in those five-game matches with Avonworth (in the WPIAL semifinals) and North Catholic (in the WPIAL finals). They see how conditioning affects their game.”

As was the case with last week’s transition from the WPIAL tournament to the state playoffs, the Yellowjackets (20-0) had just one two-hour block of practice Monday in a quick turnaround to prepare for the North Catholic rematch. Phillips said it was, as expected, another intense, fast-paced workout.

North Catholic’s only loss in 22 matches this season was the setback to the Yellowjackets. The Trojanettes, in the PIAA semifinals for the first time, refocused for states and swept District 10 champion Corry in the first round.

“We can’t look at it from the standpoint of it being a grudge match or who beat who before,” Phillips said. “We have to look at it as another game against a high-quality opponent. North Catholic is a great team with a lot of experience and weapons at each position. We have to focus on what we can control on our side of the net and do the things we are capable of doing. We’re playing pretty strong and pretty relaxed right now. It’s a matter of going out and performing.”

Senior Dominique Felix was the hitting star again for North Catholic with nine kills in the four-set victory over BEA (25-23, 25-18, 15-25, 25-20).

“I think it’s expected of us to be at this point with the opportunity for a state championship, but we can’t stop working for it,” said sophomore libero Erica Lampus.

“We’ve always worked hard in practices and matches. We know it doesn’t just happen without the hard work and preparation.”

Another big crowd is expected at North Allegheny, and that is something that gets the Freeport players pumped.

“The support means so much to us,” said senior Maddie Clark. “The school and community have been so great throughout this whole run. We don’t take that for granted. I think that is going to be a big difference (Tuesday).”

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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