New Freeport girls basketball coach Ketterer is familiar face

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Tuesday, June 6, 2023 | 6:55 PM


Mallory Heinle Ketterer knows the Freeport girls basketball program inside and out.

She spent the past four years as an eighth-grade coach and varsity assistant to Fred Soilis.

That experience, she hopes, will serve her well as she continues to transition in her new role as Freeport’s new girls head coach.

“There is a lot of excitement in the program,” Ketterer said. “We lost some really good players to graduation, but that just really opens up the opportunity for these young kids to step up and showcase different parts of their games.

“So far, all of our workouts have been high energy, and the girls have shown a great attitude. We have good kids who work hard. The excitement the girls bring to the gym keeps me excited and gets us going for the season.”

Soilis stepped down in early March after eight seasons as Freeport coach. His youngest daughter, Ava, was a senior on the team this past season, and she recently graduated from Freeport. That, along with his continued career as a lawyer, made him feel it was time to move on.

“(Coach Soilis) and I had conversations for some time about that being the expected plan and also the timeline,” said Ketterer, who was hired by the school board May 10.

“I had no doubt the administration at Freeport would go through the process thoroughly and make sure this was an appropriate hiring. I was confident that the time I had put in as the eighth grade coach and the assistant for varsity had prepared me well. They had watched me in action for four years. I was confident they would make the best decision for the program, and I am glad it is me.”

Ketterer met with the players and coaches soon after her hire and got right to work. That includes play in the Fox Chapel spring/summer league, which runs for another two weeks.

From there, she said, open-gym workouts and informal scrimmage opportunities against other local schools will take the team through the summer and into the fall.

“So far, everything has been great,” said Ketterer, who will be assisted by former Valley and Highlands head coach Jason Kerr.

“This (rising) senior class, I have had them since eighth grade. It feels really special to have had that bond with them for so long. Coach Soilis was great in helping me and prepping me for the day I would get the opportunity to step up and be a head coach. I was excited to make this transition, and I had a lot of people supporting me.”

The Natrona Heights native lettered all four years with St. Joseph and was a third-team all-state selection as a senior in 2014.

A multi-time all-star, Ketterer was selected to play in the Roundball Classic and Cager Classic All-Star Games. She was named the Cager Classic West Most Valuable Player with 14 points and eight rebounds in an 81-64 loss to the East.

Ketterer went on to play at Slippery Rock, where she started 54 games and finished second all-time in games played, sixth in offensive rebounds and 10th in blocked shots at the conclusion of her four seasons.

She said her time playing in high school and college stoked her passion to someday be a part of the sport in a coaching capacity.

“I was blessed to play for a lot of really great coaches throughout high school, AAU and college,” Ketterer said.

“I also got to witness great coaches in action from other teams. It really opened my eyes to the impact coaches can have on the game and on kids. From early on in college, I had made it my goal to be a teacher and coach in the same district and impact players and families the best way that I could.”

Ketterer began her teaching career right out of college at Freeport in the fall of 2018 and began coaching as a varsity assistant at Kiski Area under then-coach Nick Dizon.

“That first season was awesome for me,” she said. “Nick and (fellow assistant) Rich Johns, they were both so knowledgeable about the game and incredibly passionate with the girls. That helped me with my start and finding my voice in coaching. It allowed me to learn so much while being hands-on with the team. I couldn’t have asked for a better first year.”

Freeport came calling the next season, and Soilis brought Ketterer on to the Yellowjackets staff where she began to form a foundation in the program. Soilis said he is pleased she will lead the program.

Said Soilis: “We knew it would be great to have her coaching with us because she already was a teacher in the Freeport district, and she would see these kids all the time and would be a great voice for the program.

“I told her when she came on board that there was the intent for her to take over when I was done, and everything fell into place. She’s done a tremendous job with the girls since she’s been here. She played the game at a high level, and she knows the game so well.”

Ketterer technically started her varsity head coaching career in the 2021-22 season with a game at rival Deer Lakes.

Soilis had received a pair of technical fouls in previous games and was suspended for the contest with the Lancers.

With Ketterer at the helm, Freeport and Deer Lakes went down to the wire. Former Lancers standout Reese Hasley broke the Yellowjackets’ hearts with a buzzer-beater in the paint for a 39-37 win.

“It was a big game for the team and a mix of emotions for me,” Ketterer said. “There was some pressure, but it also was a lot of fun. It was something I had been working towards. I got a little taste (of being a head coach) early. It was a great experience. The girls really played well that night.”

She again led Freeport in December at Keystone Oaks as Soilis was under the weather and couldn’t make the game. The Yellowjackets battled that night, but the homestanding Eagles came out on top 58-43.

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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