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Freeport volleyball aces test against Mars

| Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, 10:21 p.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Freeport's Zoe Pawlak spikes the ball against (29) Elise Sheehy and (14) Julia Zimmer during the volleyball game Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, at Mars High School.

The name of the game is volleyball, but Freeport sophomore Zoe Pawlak didn't give Mars many chances to volley.

Pawlak had a dominant match serving, recording 10 aces and 31 service points to give the Yellowjackets sole possession of first place in Section 4-AA with a 3-0 win on the road against defending WPIAL champ Mars.

Freeport (5-0, 4-0) got a match-high 10 kills from Alexis Schrecengost, while Mars (3-2, 3-1) was led with eight kills from Lexi Zika in the first meeting between the teams that split last year's section title.

Pawlak's serving provided most of the match's highlights, including a run of six straight aces in the second set. The Yellowjackets swept with set scores of 25-14, 25-19 and 25-12.

“At first, you just try to put the ball in (play), but then you go along and start trying to hit the spots with power. That's what I was trying to do today, and I was pretty successful with it,” Pawlak said. “I don't know about that many aces, but I know I've gotten a lot of jump serves in before, and we just kept scoring on them.”

Pawlak's serve was the spark Freeport needed after Mars came out with a strong opening run. The Planets had two points taken off the board for serving out of order when the first set appeared to be tied 12-12, and they never led again after Pawlak rattled off five of her service points to give Freeport an 18-11 lead.

“We played well at times, but for whatever reason, we came out a little flat tonight,” Freeport coach Tom Phillips said. “But our sophomore (Pawlak) was outstanding tonight, and whenever you can go onto Mars' court and get a win, that's a good thing.”

The Planets, who graduated nine players from last year's team, never seemed to have an answer for the Yellowjackets' serving, whether it was Pawlak or another player such as senior Megan Sweeny, who chipped in a pair of aces.

“The serve is a weapon, and it's something that we work on every day in practice,” Phillips said. “(Pawlak) has great placement on the ball and great movement on the ball, but we have four or five kids that can serve really well. It's another weapon in our arsenal, and we do work at it.”

“I'm putting some young kids out there in the line of fire and expecting them to do their best. I told them every time we step out on the court we learn something about ourselves,” Mars coach Tami Caraway said. “We've played Elizabeth Forward, South Fayette and seen a number of other Double-A teams, and Freeport seems like the strongest team we've seen.”

Even with that sort of praise coming from the opposing coach, Freeport's focus remains on repeating as the Section 4 champ — and this time without sharing.

“After going on the road and beating Knoch (last week) and then carrying that momentum over to today, this was a big win for us,” Pawlak said.

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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