Freeeport volleyball team bows out of PIAAs with 4-set loss to Fort LeBoeuf
For the second year in a row, Freeport’s volleyball season ended at the hands of an Erie-area powerhouse.
The Yellowjackets took the first set but couldn’t keep things going after that in a 3-1 loss to Fort LeBoeuf in a PIAA Class AA first-round match Tuesday at Cochranton High School.
Larissa Cass had 14 kills to lead Fort LeBoeuf (18-0), the 2012 state champ and 2013 PIAA runner-up in Class AA. The Bison advanced to face WPIAL runner-up Thomas Jefferson in the quarterfinals after winning 23-25, 25-14, 25-18 and 25-12.
Fort LeBoeuf also knocked out the Yellowjackets (20-2) in the state quarterfinals last year, but Freeport played its 2013 match without all-state outside hitter Zoe Pawlak, who missed the match with a concussion. Pawlak played this time — the junior led Freeport with 10 kills — but it wasn’t enough to overcome poor passing and service returns.
“We didn’t do the things that we saw we needed to in film, and in every loss we’ve had this year, we’ve struggled to pass the ball,” Freeport coach Tom Phillips said. “I don’t think that was any different tonight, and in the stats, the thing that stands out is the passing.”
The Yellowjackets overcame those passing woes to rally from a 19-15 deficit and take the first set. But even with the 1-0 lead, Freeport had recorded just seven kills in the first set, though four aces helped their cause.
On the opposite side, the Bison have been no strangers to slow starts, but it rarely cost the District 10 champs like it did in the first set.
“We were nervous, which just keeps happening to us,” Fort LeBoeuf coach LeAnn Johnson said. “I don’t think it’s being nervous as much as, they want to do well so much that they put pressure on themselves. They need to let muscle memory take over and just go play like it’s any practice. Once we relaxed and went back to our own game, everything was OK.”
That game relied heavily on Cass and Miranda Gulnac on the outside but also on middle hitters Madison Lydic and Brittany Burns, who had big matches.
Phillips said the Yellowjackets knew the tendencies of the Bison’s front row, but his team couldn’t put its game plan into effect because of the free balls it fed to Fort LeBoeuf.
“We knew exactly where their middles wanted to go, but we’d be lucky if we had three blocks tonight,” Phillips said. “The bigger middle killed us on balls hit back to (Freeport’s) right. We preached and preached that in practice, but we were continuously burnt on middle attacks going to our right side.”
The second set got away from the Yellowjackets after an 8-1 run gave the Bison a double-digit lead, but in the third set, Freeport was in the match when it served trailing 20-18.
The Yellowjackets lost the next point on an attacking error, and a miscue on a Fort LeBoeuf serve allowed the Bison to take the set with a Cass kill ending a 5-0 run.
“After you lose that second game, you start thinking about situations and doubting yourself, and that’s what happened to us tonight,” Phillips said.