Freeport volleyball sets sights on state title after coming up short in WPIAL
Freeport girls volleyball coach Tom Phillips was in an optimistic mood Monday after his team finished what he called a “pretty upbeat and spirited practice.”
The Yellowjackets clean the slate and enter the PIAA Class AA playoffs Tuesday with the hopes of bouncing back from last Thursday’s upset loss to Frazier in the WPIAL semifinals.
Freeport, the No. 4 team from the WPIAL, will face District 9 champion Redbank Valley at 5 p.m. at DuBois High School.
“We look at (Tuesday’s) match as another part of our journey,” Phillips said. “We want to go in and play like we know we can play.”
Phillips said his players didn’t want to talk too much about the Frazier match, but he said he spent several hours poring over film from the match to see what needed to be improved.
“I just don’t think we played well enough,” Phillips said. “We did a number of uncharacteristic things. But that’s why they play the game. Frazier played a good match and took advantage of a number of our errors. We just have to move forward, learn from those mistakes and reload for (Tuesday).”
The Yellowjackets (16-3) are in the PIAA playoffs for the sixth year in a row, and they hope they can duplicate last year’s run to state gold and avoid a first-round exit such as the ones they experienced in 2014 and ’16.
Freeport made the state quarterfinals in 2013 and ’15.
“We’ve all put that (Frazier) match behind us and realize there’s nothing we can do about it,” said senior outside hitter Ally DeJidas, who had a team-best 14 kills against Frazier. “All we can do is go into the state bracket and show we’re still that good team we’ve proven to be all season.
“We lost in the WPIAL championship game last year and came back to win the state title. There’s nothing that says we can’t do that again.”
Redbank Valley won the District 9 championship for the second time in three years. The Lady Bulldogs suffered a 3-0 loss to Beaver in the 2016 first round.
″(Freeport) is right up there with the other top teams in the state,” Redbank Valley coach Matt Darr said. “When you hear Freeport, you know they are going to make a deep run in the playoffs each year. Hopefully, we see two really good teams playing some really good volleyball.”
Redbank Valley is 17-1 after Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Brookville in the District 9 title game. The Lady Bulldogs are on a roll with 17 straight wins, and of those 17 victories, 16 came by 3-0 scores.
“We are pretty well balanced and can go 14 to 16 deep,” Darr said.
One of Redbank Valley’s top offensive players, hitter Josie Rupp, didn’t play in the District 9 title game after violating a team/school rule, and Darr said she also will not play against Freeport.
“Although Josie is a loss, we’ve had other girls step up all season, and they did that against Brookville,” Darr said.
The players from Redbank Valley and Freeport are familiar with each other as the Yellowjackets have attended several middle school tournaments at the home of the Lady Bulldogs.
“When the girls found out they were going to play Freeport, they were pretty excited,” Darr said.
Senior setter Carissa Rearick and hitters Montana Hetrick and Taylor King lead the way for the Lady Bulldogs.
″(Rearick) is really good and really experienced. She runs things well for them,” Phillips said. “King is a pretty sizeable middle who gets up and hits hard. We know Redbank’s style of play. We’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game for sure.”
Freeport senior Sarah Hettich continued her recovery process from a foot injury suffered at the midpoint of the regular season. The 6-foot-3 middle hitter/blocker hasn’t played in the postseason.
“Sarah competed lightly in some of the workouts (Monday),” Phillips said. “She hit and blocked some balls and did some footwork drills. It was definitely a step forward for her.”