Freeport sweeps way to PIAA semifinal
WEXFORD — In a familiar place, against a familiar challenger, Freeport rolled to another match sweep Saturday afternoon, advancing to the semifinal round of the Class 2A PIAA girls volleyball playoffs with a win over Quaker Valley.
The scores of the match were 25-17, 25-16, and 25-21.
“This is our home away from home, is what we call it,” Yellowjackets coach Tom Phillips said. “We’re moving on, that’s all I know. And that’s a great thing.”
The two teams scrimmaged prior to the season, then played earlier this postseason in the semifinals of the WPIAL tournament — also at North Allegheny High School. The result in that one was the same. Focus wasn’t an issue for Freeport, though.
“Sometimes, you have to be careful that you don’t take things for granted,” Phillips said.
Sophomore Alaina Whitlinger and junior Sydney Selker had impressive performances in the WPIAL final and the state opener, respectively. In a display of the team’s collective prowess, it was another player’s turn to shine.
“We played exceptional today,” Phillips said. “Josie (Russo) in the middle really dominates things … I think Hadley (Hellgren) played a great game in the middle, also. We came to play today. Total, all-around effort.”
After being knotted at four in the opening set, Freeport took the lead and didn’t look back. Service aces by Whitlinger, senior Ava Soilis and sophomore Leah Schrecongost helped propel the ‘Jackets, while the Quakers had just as many errors on the serve.
“We like to stay aggressive from the service line,” Phillips said. “We knew there were certain matchups and certain rotation clicks that we could take advantage of.”
“You’ve got to take care of the ball,” Quaker Valley coach Mike Vavrek said. “They’re very good, very disciplined over there. They do a lot of good things.”
His side was up early in each of the next two games, but was overtaken in both.
“The defense doesn’t know where we’re going,” Russo said. “We have so many weapons … We know that — whoever we have setting — we’re gonna put it down.”
She recorded nine kills on the day and was a crucial presence up front.
“Cassidy (Dell) and I have been working really hard in that middle getting the quick set,” Russo said. “We knew Quaker Valley would have double blocks, so we worked hitting around it and fast tempo. It really paid off.”
The Quakers’ top two hitters — junior Annica Katie and sophomore Amalia MacDonald — were largely held in check.
“They’re two solid, solid players,” Phillips said. “You have to account for them all the time. We worked hard on a lot of things this week preparing for them.”
For the right to make a trip to the state final, Freeport will face off with Phillipsburg-Osceola in Punxsutawney Tuesday night. The Mountaineers swept WPIAL runner-up Shenango in the quarterfinals.