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Practice makes perfect for Freeport’s possession-style offense

Tribune-Review
| Tuesday, November 1, 2016 11:12 p.m
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Jason Bridge | Tribune-Review
Freeport girls soccer coach Brittany Grenninger talks to her team during their practice at the high school in Buffalo Township on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016.
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Barry Reeger | For The Tribune-Review
Freeport's Cameron Lindsay drives past Waynesburg's Elle Hampson in their WPIAL Class AA Girl's Soccer Semifinal at Elizabeth Forward High School on Saturday Oct. 29, 2016, in Elizabeth. Freeport defeated Waynesburg 3-1.

Tedium birthed the Freeport girls soccer team’s dominance.

Before every practice, for at least 20 minutes, coach Brittni Grenninger drilled the Yellowjackets relentlessly on passing, sticking with workouts that bound the players to three touches or fewer before getting rid of the ball.

Grenninger, a former Karns City and St. Francis (Pa.) player, sensed the consternation at times.

“There’s many a practice where these girls get so frustrated with the drills,” Grenninger said. “But we continue to tell them that if they’re able to do it in a situation here where we immensely limit their touches and they’re in a very small area, then it’ll transition very well over to a game where they have much more space.”

If practice didn’t make perfect, it came close.

The ball-control style born from those daily drills allowed Freeport to reach the WPIAL championship game for the first time, where the No. 2 Yellowjackets (15-3-1) will meet No. 1 Freedom (19-0) at 6 p.m. Thursday at Highmark Stadium.

“This is something we incorporated as soon as (assistant Lex Zamora) and I got here, so this has been three years in the making,” Grenninger said. “We’ve been practicing the same style for three years. This year we just have the manpower to do it.”

Using a mixture of team speed and pinpoint passing, the Yellowjackets win games by dominating possession.

“We definitely have speed up top, and our coach sees speed in the back,” senior defender Kim Mixon said. “That’s kind of a double threat right there, and every time we practice, we’re always pushing each other. It’s almost comical because we’ll race against each other, and we push each other.”

Several of Freeport’s 11 shutouts this season came without allowing a shot on goal.

That ability carried over to the Yellowjackets’ first two playoff games, as they held No. 7 Yough without a shot in the second half of a 3-0 quarterfinal win and kept No. 3 Waynesburg off the board until the waning minutes of a 3-1 semifinal victory.

“My offense does a tremendous job of controlling the ball,” Mixon said. “It is hard for us in the back because every once in a while when it does come back, we don’t want to disappoint. We want to get it right back in there and let them do their thing.”

Grenninger became Freeport’s fourth coach in five years when she was hired in 2014, and she helped stabilize the program by instituting concepts like film work.

That, combined with Freeport’s on-field speed and skills, gives the Yellowjackets an effective sting.

The team doesn’t boast a Division I recruit, but the collective effort has worked well so far.

“Since my freshman year, we’ve been getting better and better each year,” junior defender Hannah Stokes said. “Our coaches have gotten to know us as players and know how we work together. We’ve just been jelling for three years, and now we’re clicking and connecting as a team.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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