North Catholic volleyball gets vengeance, defeats Freeport in PIAAs

Tuesday, November 12, 2019 | 9:48 PM

The day after North Catholic girls volleyball lost to Freeport in the WPIAL Class AA finals by surrendering a 2-0 lead, coach Amanda Fetter told her players they deserved to have a banner hanging in the gymnasium, and the only one left to get was a PIAA banner.

The Trojans figured they’d see Freeport again, and after they took the first two sets in Tuesday’s PIAA semifinal rematch with the Yellowjackets they were determined to not let history repeat itself.

Led by Dominique Felix, they put the pedal down and made sure it was their night.

Felix had 15 kills, including six in the third set, and North Catholic advanced to the state championship game for the first time in program history with a 3-0 sweep of the Yellowjackets at North Allegheny.

It was a measure of retribution for the loss in the WPIAL final, and it awarded the Trojans a chance to make school history. They play District 4’s North Penn Liberty in the PIAA final at 1 p.m. Saturday at Cumberland Valley.

“We were in the gym the next day talking about (the Freeport loss), and I told them I’m not sad, I’m mad because I want more,” Fetter said. “Corry was a really good team, Bald Eagle is a very good team and Freeport is a good team, and we went through them all. Now we’re on to the other side to see what they have to offer.”

The Trojans (23-1) made Freeport (20-1) play catch up all night and won 25-19, 25-12, 25-16. Ava Whitesel had 11 kills, and Libby Palmer added seven.

“All year we hung our hat on defense, and the defensive effort wasn’t there tonight,” Freeport coach Tom Phillips said. “There were a lot of uncharacteristic things and mistakes. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I didn’t prepare them enough, but we did not play like the team that got us here. I think they wanted it a little bit more than what we did.”

Freeport led 17-15 in the first set, but kills from Felix and Palmer sparked a 7-0 run. Anna Schoeppner had a kill from the right side that clinched the set.

“Our goal was to come in and get Game 1 so we didn’t have to play from behind, but unfortunately we played from behind in all three sets,” Phillips said. “North Catholic is a good team. They have a lot of different weapons, and their defense was great. They were hungry tonight.”

North Catholic rolled in the second set. It had a span where it scored 9 of 10 points to take a 16-7 lead, and it closed on a 9-2 run.

That gave the Trojans the same 2-0 lead they had in the WPIAL final, but this time they were determined to finish the job.

“We knew that we still had some work to do,” Fetter said. “After that second set I think they kicked into another gear. I’m just so proud of them. They are just good kids, and they deserve it.”

A Lauren Lampus kills cut North Catholic’s lead to 19-14 in the third, but Felix and Palmer had back-to-back kills that increased the lead to seven and Freeport never got closer than that the rest of the way.

Now the Trojans are one step from the program’s first state title and an opportunity to ring the large bell on campus that only is allowed to be rung by WPIAL and state champions.

“This team is so good, and they deserve to have a marking in that gym,” Fetter said. “We only get banners for winning WPIALs and states. We don’t have section banners. I want them to win, so when they leave I can look up and have something to remember them by.”

The match was delayed 31 minutes as Freeport arrived late after being stuck in traffic caused by snow squalls along route 228.

The Yellowjackets graduate seven seniors: Lampus, Mackensey Jack, Tori Radvan, Isabella Russo, Cora Crytzer, Madeline Clark and Samantha Clark. The seniors won Freeport’s first WPIAL title since 2016 and were a part of a state championship team in 2017.

“I’m proud of these kids,” Phillips said. “They work hard, and it’s been a great year for them. Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you, and today was one of those days were we made some uncharacteristic errors.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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