Freshman McKenzie Pritts scores twice, Yough blanks Freeport to reach WPIAL title game

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Monday, October 28, 2019 | 8:45 PM


The Yough girls soccer team recorded only two shots on goal over the first 43 minutes of its WPIAL Class AA semifinal against Freeport on Monday at Mars.

But the Cougars made both shots count as they built a two-goal advantage.

Yough added a goal later in the second half and kept the potent Freeport offense from finding the back of the net in a 3-0 victory.

The fifth-seeded Cougars (17-1-1) advanced to the WPIAL championship game at Highmark Stadium against North Catholic.

The semifinal appearance was Yough’s third over the past six seasons, but it is the first title-game appearance in program history.

“It took energy from everybody and sticking together through the entire game to get this win,” said freshman McKenzie Pritts, who scored two goals in the victory.

Yough has won eight straight games, allowing just three goals in that stretch.

“This is a tremendous feeling,” Cougars coach Dann Appolonia said. “This group of girls has worked so hard from the start. I also give a shout out to girls who have graduated over the past five or six years, because they really had a big hand in getting this rolling. Ten years ago, Yough girls soccer wasn’t on the map.”

Despite the loss, the season is not over for Freeport as it will play for third place and a trip to the PIAA playoffs Wednesday against South Park at a site and time to be determined.

“We’re going to hit the reset button and get ready for Wednesday,” Grenninger said. “We have a really young group. We’ve been resilient so far this season. Hopefully, this will add fuel to the fire.”

Freeport delivered the first shot of the game within the first minute.

The Yellowjackets made a second push about 30 seconds later, but Yough gained possession and started a counter.

Justine Appolonia, Yough’s leading scorer this season, went nearly coast-to-coast and delivered a cross from the right wing to Pritts who one-timed a shot into the back of the net just 1:46 into the game.

“That early goal really set the tone for us,” coach Appolonia said.

The Cougars extended its lead 2:30 into the second half as Natalie Vilcheck gained possession at 25 yards, turned and fired a shot that caught Freeport keeper Maddy Zarichnak flat-footed.

Pritts made it 3-0 with 16:34 left as she scored off an assist from Vilcheck. Pritts has 25 goals on the season.

Freeport (16-5), in the semifinals for the third time in four seasons, finished with 11 shots, including eight in the second half, but the Yough defense, including 10 saves from keeper Sara Krofchek, held the Yellowjackets off the scoreboard for the first time in 21 games this season.

“We’re a high-scoring team, and that’s what gets written up in the paper most often, but our defense, including Sara, has been tremendous all year,” coach Appolonia said. “They’ve done a good job of limiting those high-quality chances, and Sara takes care of those long shots.”

“You never want to give up the first goal,” Freeport coach Brittni Grenninger said. “We gave up that first goal and tried to open things up more to get one in, but we ended up giving up two more in the long run.”

Freeport had its best scoring opportunity of the first half with less than two minutes on the clock.

Senior Sidney Shemanski, who entered the game as the team leader in goals with 37, gained possession at the edge of the goal box and moved to the goal.

With a defender on her hip, she delivered a shot from six yards, but the ball was stopped by Krofchek to preserve Yough’s one-goal lead.

“Sidney gets her chances,” Grenninger said. “(Krofchek) came up big to keep us from getting the equalizer. That kind of took the wind out of our sails.”

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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