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Freeport needs 5 sets to stay unbeaten

Freeport’s girls volleyball team fought through five heart-pounding games to narrowly avoid the fate some of its predecessors accepted.

The Yellowjackets (17-0), seeded No. 2 in Class AA, defeated Mars, 3-2, at North Allegheny on Tuesday night in the WPIAL quarterfinals to earn a semifinal berth for the second consecutive season. Before 2009, Freeport had lost in the quarterfinals three times in four years.

“I just kept preaching to them, ‘Don’t play safe. Go after it,’ ” coach Tom Phillips said. “And they did.”

Freeport, which defeated Mars in the semifinals in 2009, will meet Hopewell, a 3-1 victor over Montour, on Thursday in a final four match. The time and location have yet to be determined.

At times during yesterday’s match, neither team seemed content to close out a game decisively.

Freeport held on to win the first game, 25-22, after leading 19-13 early. Mars (14-5) rallied to make the score 21-20, Freeport, with the help of two kills each from Abby Matusik and Brooke Finney as well as two unreturned serves from Dominique Roach. Four of the Yellowjackets’ final six points came on unforced Mars errors.

Mars dominated at the net and from the service line in the second game (25-8). The Planets had 11 kills and seven unreturned serves. Freeport, which had just two kills in the game, didn’t help its chances for a comeback by committing five unforced errors.

The Planets built a 20-11 lead in the third game but almost let it slip away. Freeport cut the deficit to 22-20 before Mars scored three straight to take the game.

Freeport established a 20-13 lead in the fourth game but watched the Planets storm back. The Yellowjackets led, 23-21, when Mars committed a service error and failed to get Anna Christy’s kill attempt back over the net.

In the fifth game (15-5), Freeport went ahead, 8-2, with a strong performance by Rachel Grubbs, who had a block, two kills and an unreturned serve. Mars cut the lead to 10-5, but two points each from Ashley Sample and Jessica McFadden and an unforced Mars error decided the match.

“I was nervous because we made a lot of uncharacteristic errors,” Phillips said. “Our passing was very suspect. … Mars is a very aggressive team. They come at you. You gotta be good on serve-receive. I think we struggled with that a little bit tonight, and it got us out of system.”

Sample finished the game with a team-high 14 kills. Grubbs and Taylor Schrecengost had seven kills each.

“Momentum is the name of the game,” Phillips said. “Even in game three … it was one of those things where I called a timeout and said ‘Listen, you gotta start building some momentum. I’m not saying this game is over. But you gotta get the momentum swinging.’ … I think we came out real strong in game four. Obviously winning game four and taking that momentum swing, I really thought that we’d be fine.”


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