Freedom enjoys unprecedented success as underdog
The Freedom girls soccer team portrayed David in the “David versus Goliath” narrative for much of the 2014 season.
First-year coach Colin Williams accepted the role, and his Bulldogs came very close to slaying Goliath.
“To finish in the top four (in the PIAA) for Freedom is just phenomenal,” Williams said. “I was very upset coming in to the playoffs that we weren't considered a darkhorse. I think our performance in the regular season really showed that we could be a good team.
“We know that when we play well, we can win games. We were forgotten and not even considered.”
The Bulldogs are highlighted as this week's Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature team, and they are a primary reason why Freedom is in fourth place in the Class AA standings.
The Bulldogs finished 15-11 overall (9-5 in Section 1) and reached the WPIAL Class A championship before falling to Greensburg Central Catholic. Freedom eventually fell, 4-1, in the PIAA semifinals, again against the Centurions.
“Even though we didn't fulfill our needs in the section, we were able to get into the playoffs and show our talents,” Williams said. “Unfortunately, we ran into Greensburg (Central Catholic) again and came up a bit short, but we're very proud of what we accomplished.”
Williams fielded a talented group of overachieving players that will pop up in box scores in years to come.
Sophomore Alexa Schwab scored a team-best 35 goals this season — including the Bulldog's lone goal in the PIAA semifinals. Heading in to her junior year, Williams expects Schwab to continue to grow and excel in a leadership role.
“We're looking forward to her the next few years,” he said. “She's only going to get stronger. She has really, really improved and worked hard and that will make her a better player down the road.”
Seniors Alexis Singleton and Madi Daubenspeck anchored the Bulldogs' efforts to keep the ball out of their net.
“Those two players locked our midfield defense down,” Williams said. “I don't want to diminish what everyone else did, but had they not been there, we would never be the defense we are.”
Casey Spieler, a senior midfielder, plays a passionate brand of soccer, Williams said, and her absence next year is a role the Bulldogs will need to fill.
Despite losing a core group of seniors, it's a talented group of underclassmen and players in junior high this year that excites him about the future of the program.
Freshman forward Lindsey Kauffman matured enough to school three goals in the postseason, while freshman Taylor Petroff became a key central midfielder.
Freshman goalkeeper Jacklyn Hartle was superb at times this season, recording four shutouts including two in the playoffs.
“She did a tremendous job this year and really kept us in games,” Williams said. “It's a thankless job being a goalkeeper, and I know she'll help us in years moving forward.”
Williams anticipates the offseason will allow his players to mature physically and sharpen their games mentally. He said he hopes to focus on the technical side of the game and bring an intellectual approach that will be difficult to combat.
“We have the team with experience now and young girls coming up from our cup program,” he said. “Everyone is going to be bigger and stronger, so I know next year we'll be right back to where we were this year.
“We know we're capable of going to the end if we want to.”
Brian Graham is a freelance writer.