Soilis enjoyed run as coach of Freeport girls basketball team

Sunday, March 19, 2023 | 4:08 PM

When Fred Soilis first was approached about becoming the Freeport girls basketball coach, he wasn’t sure if he would apply for the job.

Eight years later, he is glad he did.

But now he said it’s time for him to hand off the program to the next coach.

After a successful eight-year run at Freeport, Soilis submitted his resignation.

Soilis’ youngest daughter, Ava, is graduating this year, and he felt it was the right moment to move on. He is a lawyer and a partner at Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman law firm.

“I’m not a career coach, and no knock against anyone who coaches a long time, it’s just not conducive with my profession or my livelihood,” Soilis said. “I’ve had a great deal of flexibility — and not that I wouldn’t continue to have flexibility — but you can only stretch it so far. I knew it was time to step down after (Ava) was done and give someone else an opportunity.”

In his time with the Yellowjackets, Soilis compiled a 94-77 record, made the WPIAL playoffs six times and the state tournament twice.

Soilis ran the elementary and seventh and eighth grade winter leagues in Freeport Area School District before taking the varsity job before the 2015-16 season.

He got to coach his three daughters: Zoe, Grace and Ava. Zoe went on to play at Allegheny, and Grace is a student at Pitt.

The Yellowjackets quickly became a consistent program, earning a playoff win in his second season and a trip to the state tournament.

“We were in contention pretty much every year,” Soilis said. “My first year we missed the playoffs by 16 points, and this year we missed it by one game. Would of, could’ve, should’ve this year. If Ava doesn’t get hurt, who knows what happens? But it was high school basketball, and I enjoyed it.

“I was able to meet a lot of people, who I would’ve probably never met otherwise and develop relationships. To me that’s a big reward. It gave me great life experience, and on top of that, I got to coach my three kids. Did we want to win a championship? Of course. But I don’t think we’re any less successful because we didn’t.”

Soilis pointed to three moments in his career as the most memorable.

The first came in his first season when he challenged his team in a unique way before a late-season section matchup against Shady Side Academy. He told them if they won the game, he would let them shave his head. The Yellowjackets went on to win 46-45 and got the clippers out.

“Kim Mixon made a clutch basket, and then they shaved my head,” Soilis said. “That was a nice memory.”

Then there was that first playoff win in 2017. The Yellowjackets took down Elizabeth Forward, 56-50, and advanced to the quarterfinals. The win was enough to qualify for the state tournament, where they lost to Blackhawk in the opening round.

“That was a big deal,” Soilis said. “It had been at least 13 years since we last went to states, so that was a highlight.”

The third highlight was a loss, 54-52 to Southmoreland in the 2019-20 WPIAL quarterfinals, but it was also a sign of how far the team had come that season. The Yellowjackets were blown out by the Scotties the opening weekend but improved to a point where they took them to the brink.

“It was the senior year for Sidney Shemanski and Madeline and Samantha Clark,” Soilis said. “It was a tight game, and we had our chances to win it. In our tip-off tournament, they beat us by 40 when we were not healthy. We went from that to being two points away from the semis.

“We would’ve played Central Valley, and I think we could’ve had a good chance to go to the finals. That game was at a packed house at Penn-Trafford. It was a lot of fun.”

Soilis still has one more game remaining. He will be on the bench at the Cager Classic at Highlands next Saturday. It will be his third time coaching in the annual all-star game.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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