Various Alle-Kiski Valley schools change classifications

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Saturday, January 8, 2022 | 8:20 PM


After many years of high-level contests in WPIAL Class 2A, including five seasons that resulted in WPIAL championships, the Freeport girls volleyball team made a move to Class 3A two years ago.

But the winning didn’t wane as the Yellowjackets posted co-section championships this past fall and in 2020.

The 2021 campaign also saw Freeport conquer all of Class 3A for its sixth WPIAL title and make a run to the PIAA semifinals.

Now, as part of the latest classification reports for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years released last Tuesday, Freeport will be back down in Class AA.

“We were one of the smallest in triple-A for those two years, but we didn’t complain about it,” coach Tom Phillips said.

“When the lights were on, the girls worked hard, and we were able to still be successful to the standard of Freeport volleyball. We knew that numbers were down from what they were the previous two years, and that we would probably go back down to double-A. No matter where we are, we will continue to prepare the best we can to compete.”

For the PIAA realignment process to move forward, the state governing body received from each member school, including 14 from the Alle-Kiski Valley, total boys and girls enrollment numbers for those in grades 9 through 11.

After two years in Class 4A’s Greater Allegheny Conference, Plum football is moving back up to Class 5A to join a group that includes of Fox Chapel, North Hills, Shaler, Penn-Trafford, Penn Hills, Gateway and Franklin Regional.

The Mustangs recorded a pair of WPIAL playoff trips the past two seasons including a run to the semifinals in 2020.

“We had that real good year in 4A, and last year we had our struggles a little bit,” Plum coach Matt Morgan said.

Plum’s male enrollment number is 428, 29 above the Class 4A/5A threshold.

“We did lose three games against 5A schools, and then we started to turn it around,” Morgan said.

“Four A is where I personally feel we belong competitively, but our numbers didn’t match up with that. It is what it is. We’ve competed in 5A before, and we’ll compete again. We just need to work hard to get stronger in the offseason to be ready to face some of those teams.”

Other local football moves include Kiski Area’s drop down from Class 5A to 4A. Knoch moves down one to Class 3A and a likely return to conference matchups with rival Freeport and other possible matchups with Class 3A holdovers Deer Lakes and Valley.

Another change in football has Burrell dropping to Class 2A with schools such as Apollo-Ridge, Derry, Imani Christian and Ligonier Valley.

Burrell and Freeport baseball will move down from Class 4A to 3A and join the likes of Deer Lakes and Valley.

The Bucs are two over the minimum for Class 3A, and Freeport is two below the maximum for the classification.

“I think it will be more like it used to be in the section,” said Burrell coach Mark Spohn, who saw his team go 5-9 overall and 3-7 in Section 1-4A last year.

“Most of the teams from around here will be back to playing each other again. It will be nice to get back to some of the old rivalries.”

The Apollo-Ridge girls soccer team was a Class A-size team the past two years and played in a Class A section. But a clerical error put it in Class AA for the playoffs, and it had to win a section title to qualify for the postseason.

The Vikings fared well the past two falls, but they were not able to take part in WPIALs.

Now, Apollo-Ridge officially is in Class AA as the Vikings bump up for at least the next two seasons. The co-op with Leechburg puts them at 174 girls in grades nine through 11, 15 over the Class AA/Class A line.

Potential section matchups in Class AA include classification mainstays Highlands, Deer Lakes, Freeport, Valley and Burrell.

“I was looking forward to winning the (Class A) section this year with all the players coming back and knowing what everyone else has and lost,” Vikings coach Matt Ross said.

“It goes from knowing what we had to not having a clue what it’s going to be like.”

Apollo-Ridge’s Class A section foes such as Springdale, Greensburg Central Catholic and Serra Catholic will remain in the lowest classification.

“It became a nice rivalry with Serra Catholic over the years,” Ross said. “We’re going to miss playing them.”

The Vikings and Eagles split their section series each of the past two seasons, and this past fall, they finished tied with 7-5 records.

No teams from any A-K Valley schools volunteered to play up from where they were assigned by the PIAA. That state-wide list was released Friday at PIAA.org, and 15 WPIAL schools overall have one or more sports playing up.

Schools soon will find out their section alignments as those lists are expected to be approved by the WPIAL board of directors Jan. 18.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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