State champion Freeport girls volleyball team completes busy, successful off-season
By: Doug Gulasy
Wednesday, August 8, 2018 | 7:48 PM
Freeport took some time to celebrate its 2017 PIAA volleyball championship, including the installation of a road marker in the borough’s downtown and a trip to Harrisburg to get recognized at the State Capitol.
Other than that, the Yellowjackets spent their “downtime” doing what they do best: playing volleyball, and winning.
A pair of recent summer league championships, one at Pitt Elite and the other at Kiski Area, capped a summer of volleyball that also included a trip to Juniata for a highly rated team camp and a beach league at coach Tom Phillips’ house.
“We keep them busy in the summer, that’s for sure,” Phillips said.
That’s by design. With four WPIAL championships since 2010, plus that Class AA state title last season, Freeport enters every year with high expectations, and the summer builds the groundwork for the season.
“It’s been a good summer for us, and we’re eager and anxious to defend our crown,” Phillips said. “We know playing this year, obviously being state champs we’re going to have a target on our back. But that’s great. You’ve got to be playing in the summertime.
“(There are) teams that start when volleyball season starts next week, but we’ve had a lot under our belt already, and I don’t think we’ve stopped since the state playoffs last year. We’ve been kind of playing all along, and that’s good stuff.”
The Pitt Elite league, which included 20 teams from the area, provided Freeport once a week with competition against programs like Baldwin, Central Valley, Peters Township, Pine-Richland — “a lot of non-slouches,” Phillips said.
After finishing the regular season as the No. 4 seed, the Yellowjackets knocked off top-ranked Pine-Richland in the semifinals and defeated Baldwin in the finals to avenge an earlier loss.
“It feels really good to win that tournament down there and to play all those bigger schools that have such good reputations and great volleyball programs, as well,” senior Ally DeJidas said. “To see that we’re right there with them, it’s a great start to a great year.”
The Freeport junior varsity team advanced to the championship of its own Pitt Elite summer league before falling to one of the club’s premier teams.
Freeport beat Franklin Regional in the championship of the Kiski Area league, which also included Burrell, Kiski Area and Plum. The Yellowjackets also competed for three days at the Juniata camp against teams from the WPIAL, Pennsylvania and New York, losing one match.
Phillips said the team showed strong commitment throughout the summer. Freeport is replacing three significant starters in Claire Crytzer, Courtney Grubbs and Hannah Mason, and the constant competition afforded some younger players playing time.
“The thing about summer leagues is it’s kind of like a balancing act because sometimes with vacations and things like that, sometimes you get all your kids there and sometimes you only get a few of them there,” Phillips said.
” … (But) I’m very happy with my team. I’ve got to say, the three significant players that we (graduated), we’ve had some people step up and fill some roles and step into those roles. It’s people that were waiting their turn, and I’m very happy with the outcome, very happy with the turnout of the summer, how much kids have really committed and bought into what we’re doing.”
After team camp this week, Freeport’s volleyball season officially begins next week with training camp.
“We expect nothing less this year than from the last seasons,” DeJidas said.
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.