Freeport falls in quarterfinals to defending state champion
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There's never a good time for a sudden lineup change, but especially not when the defending state champion is on the other side of the net.
WPIAL champion Freeport took the court without injured sophomore outside hitter Zoe Pawlak, and despite a game effort, the shorthanded Yellowjackets fell to Fort LeBoeuf, 3-0, in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals Saturday at Slippery Rock High School.
Larissa Cass had a match-high 10 kills, and Jolene Young and Kayley Fucci both had eight kills for the Bison (19-1), who will have a rematch of the District 10 final against D-10 champ Conneaut in the semifinals Tuesday. The Bison won by set scores of 25-17, 25-13 and 25-22.
Freeport (19-2) junior Jessica Kelley and seniors Alexis Schrecengost and Megan Sweeny all had seven kills for the Yellowjackets, who only knew for certain on Friday that they would be without Pawlak because of a concussion suffered in the state tournament's first round against Hopewell.
“These guys have been resilient, and we had a great practice Friday, but we had to change everything up,” Freeport coach Tom Phillips said. “We had to start a freshman today, and Megan (Sweeny) moved into Zoe's spot. I thought Megan did real well there, but it just seemed like that mesh wasn't there. Defensively, we were OK, but we struggled passing the ball.”
The lineup change was a surprise to Fort LeBoeuf, which also had to adjust to the new-look Freeport lineup.
“We had prepared for what we saw on film, so we had to think about what we were going to do with our lineup and the matchups we practiced for,” Fort LeBoeuf coach LeAnn Johnson said. “But I also told our girls we needed to play like Fort LeBoeuf, and it doesn't matter if it's Penn State or a seventh-grade team on the other side of the net.”
Freeport struggled with communication on some early points but appeared to settle into the match. The Yellowjackets' seniors worked hard to extend their season, as Schrecengost and libero Brittney Bianco seemed to be on the floor nearly every play against the hard-hitting Fort LeBoeuf attack.
“We tried really hard to get everyone into a rhythm, but bringing two new people into new positions made it hard to get in a rhythm in one day (of practice). But we tried,” Schrecengost said.
The Yellowjackets tried to make a stand by coming out strong in the third set and taking a 16-13 lead. Fort LeBoeuf regained the lead with a 6-2 run, and though Freeport tried to get the momentum back, a trio of attacking errors in the final eight points helped the Bison finish off the match.
“Everybody stepped up and played well, but when you lose a player, people have a tendency to think they have to do more than they need to,” Phillips said. “I think that was the case today, and our passing struggled because of it. But I'm proud of them, the season they've had and the accomplishments they've had.”
The team's most notable accomplishment — the school's second WPIAL championship in volleyball — is what Schrecengost said will be the lasting legacy for this year's team and its five seniors.
“I couldn't be any happier with my senior year,” Schrecengost said. “Just being on a team with so much talent and so much heart, I couldn't have asked for a better season. None of those other teams have a (WPIAL) gold medal like we do, and we'll always have those to say, ‘Hey, we did this as a team.'”
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