Freeport girls volleyball makes return to semifinals
After a one-year absence, the Freeport girls volleyball team is back in the semifinals.
After a slow start Tuesday, Freeport won three straight games to emerge with a 3-1 victory over Central Valley in Class AA quarterfinal action at Fox Chapel High School.
The Yellowjackets, in the semifinal round for the fifth time in the last six seasons, will play Knoch Thursday at 6 p.m. at North Hills.
Freeport's record is 16-1, while the Warriors concluded their season 12-4.
The victory also clinched a Yellowjackets berth in the PIAA playoffs, which begin next Tuesday.
Sophomore Zoe Pawlak led the way with nine aces, 15 kills and 20 service points.
In Game 4, Freeport broke an 18-18 tie with a point, and Pawlak reeled off six consecutive service points to bring home the victory.
Central Valley, in its fourth year of existence, won the first game 25-12 and led the second game 4-0 before Freeport mounted a comeback and took control of the match.
“We were absolutely bushwhacked that first game,” Freeport coach Tom Phillips said. “We talked about getting back and playing our game and changing things around a little bit at a time. We started to play defense and get a little more aggressive at the service line.”
A kill and four consecutive service points by Pawlak helped turn around Freeport's fortunes in Game 2.
“I think that helped the whole team get the momentum we needed to win,” Pawlak said.
The Yellowjackets built a 10-point lead in Game 2 as Morgan Ruppersberger provided strong play at the net. Pawlak's kill secured a 25-15 victory and set up a strong Freeport surge in the fourth and decisive game.
The Yellowjackets pulled ahead, 17-11, but the Warriors rallied to forge the 18-18 stalemate.
“If we could have held Zoe from serving, it could have been a different picture,” Central Valley coach Dennis Damp said.
“I was trying to be consistent with my serves and at the same time be powerful,” Pawlak said.
Senior and college prospect Seairra Barrett had a superb evening and was particularly dominating in the first game.
“Our girls worked very hard, we were a big underdog coming into this one,” Damp said. “Freeport's been here year after year, we're kind of the new kids on the block. We came out and hit the spots we needed to hit, but not enough.”
The victory also meant Freeport could finally put away the sour memory of last year's upset loss to Ambridge in the quarterfinals.
“Sometimes that did haunt us and we did talk a lot about it,” Phillips said. “Obviously, when you get to the playoffs, there's no wooden nickels. Everybody's going to come and give you their best game.”
Alexis Schrecengost contributed seven kills and 24 service points.
George Guido is a freelance writer.