Knee injury behind her, Freeport senior ready for ‘high-pressure situations’ in WPIAL volleyball playoffs

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Wednesday, October 30, 2019 | 6:18 PM


Tori Radvan ended her sophomore volleyball season on the court at Johnstown’s Richland High School celebrating a state championship with her Freeport teammates.

Her junior year began with promise as she hoped her veteran on-court presence would be an added benefit to another solid campaign for the Yellowjackets.

But her momentum was cut short as an ACL injury in the first game of the season sidelined her for six months of athletic activities.

“It was very hard, especially in the playoffs,” Radvan said. “I wished I could’ve been out there to help the team.”

She received a boost when she was cleared to return for softball in March. She put together an all-star season and led Freeport to the playoffs.

When she got back on the volleyball court in early August for preseason practice sessions, she did so with a little apprehension at first. However, she said she was quickly able to get back in the groove.

“I was afraid I was going to hurt my knee again,” Radvan said. “But after I went through several practices and scrimmages, I got in a rhythm and got more and more comfortable. It was just so much fun playing with everyone again.”

Radvan again is a key piece to the Freeport machine that has rolled into the WPIAL Class AA semifinals with a 16-0 record.

“Tori is a great athlete, and she brings so much to the table,” coach Tom Phillips said. “She plays multiple positions and has a great jump serve. She’s also strong as a defender. I only take her out in the back because I want to keep her fresh. It’s a joy having her back and healthy this year.”

The No. 2-seeded Yellowjackets, in the WPIAL semifinals for the seventh year in a row, will face No. 6 Avonworth (13-5) at 6 p.m. Thursday at North Allegheny.

“We respond well when we are pushed and are in high-pressure situations,” said Radvan, one of seven seniors — all captains — hoping to lead Freeport back to the WPIAL title game for the first time since 2017 and its first WPIAL championship since 2016.

“We know it’s time to step up and raise our games. Our practices are high intensity, and we take that into our games. We have high expectations to be where we are right now.”

Tuesday’s 3-0 sweep of Hopewell also put the Yellowjackets back in the state playoffs for the seventh straight season. Freeport begins the PIAA tournament Tuesday.

The Yellowjackets were stopped one match short of the WPIAL title game last year in a 3-1 loss to Frazier, and the potential was there for a semifinal rematch.

But Avonworth, led by the hitting of senior outside hitter Makenna Gavin, ousted Frazier, 3-2, in a quarterfinal clash at Norwin.

Phillips said that Avonworth has several talented players on the court, but their success is fueled by the exploits of Gavin, who had 28 kills in the victory over the Commodores.

“She’s been there forever as a four-year starter,” Phillips said of the 6-foot, two-time all-state performer. “They feed her the ball from wherever on the court. You have to account for her.”

Freeport and Avonworth also met in the 2016 WPIAL semifinals. The Yellowjackets won that match en route to the title. The Antelopes returned to the semifinals in 2017 but were denied by eventual champion Beaver.

“Everybody’s got hitters at this point, and everyone has people who can put the ball away,” Phillips said. “I think the serve-pass game is the biggest component. That’s the element you have to win.

“We have to step up and go do the things we’re good at and not get caught up in the pressures of what’s at stake. If we do that, we should be fine.”

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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