Freeport, Ford City set for playoff battle
Fox Chapel is the site, but it will be an Armstrong County affair in the Class AA girls volleyball semifinals.
Defending champion and top seed Freeport will attempt to remain undefeated when it faces No. 4 Ford City with a spot in the WPIAL final on the line at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Fox Chapel.
Freeport (20-0) has a chance to reach its fourth WPIAL final in five years, and Ford City (16-1) is in the semifinals for the first time in school history. Yellowjackets coach Tom Phillips would like to see his team end the Sabers' run, but he's happy to see Ford City's success.
“It's good to get some local flavor in there. Usually by now, it's the Thomas Jeffersons, the Hopewells and the Montours of the world who are left,” Phillips said. “We have a good relationship with (Ford City), and we know a lot of their girls. Our junior high program plays them, and we've played them some (at the varsity level), too.”
For two neighboring schools from the area to meet this deep in the postseason is rare.
The last time two Armstrong County schools met this late in the WPIAL girls volleyball playoffs was the 1998 Class AA final between two schools that have closed: Shannock Valley beat Elderton, 2-0.
Those Spartans were the top seed that year, and the Sabers know they'll need to play an excellent game to keep this year's top seed out of the final.
“We're definitely excited for that game, and we've been working on some things we've seen with their players, so hopefully we can put that in action,” Ford City senior Stephanie DiGregorio said.
“We know how good Freeport is. Our girls are going to play hard Thursday, and that's all we can do,” Ford City coach Andrea Lasher said.
Freeport has the clear edge in playoff experience with seniors Grace Ward, Jess Kelley and Karlie Hill and juniors Zoe Pawlak and Morgan Ruppersberger having played a role in last year's WPIAL triumph.
But Ford City has strength at the net in junior Justyne Lasher and seniors Christina Davis, Tyree Freeman, Blair Willyard and DiGregorio, which sets up for a hard-hitting semifinal.
“(Ford City) plays together, plays good defense and has some potential on the outsides. For them to win that section says a lot about their kids and their coach,” Phillips said. “I hope the fact we've been here is to our advantage, but they're new at it and have that dream. A hungry team is a team you have to be careful of.”