Freeport, N. Catholic still rolling

October 29, 2021 Cranberry Local Sports

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Freeport's Cassidy Dell, left, and Hadley Hellgren go up for a block during a match against Knoch earlier this season. The Yellowjackets are the top seed in the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs, while North Catholic is No. 1 in the Class 2A tournament.

Freeport and North Catholic's girls volleyball programs have proven to be among the most consistent in the WPIAL.

Once class rivals, the Yellowjackets and the Trojanettes are now both seeking to roll through their own separate playoff tournaments as top seeds.

“We've just been really blessed,” North Catholic coach Amanda Fetter said. “We've had a really nice talent pool to pick from. I attribute a lot of that to the diocese and volleyball programs. They do such a phenomenal job training those kids starting in third grade (and) coming up through that, by the time we get them, they're very well-versed.”

The influx of experienced players has helped North to a 13-1 record and a sweep against Ligonier Valley Wednesday. The Trojanettes won by scores of 25-7, 25-7, 25-8.

Ally Feczko has piled up 209 kills for North this season, with Riley Warda adding another 67. Sydnei Jones leads the team in assists and aces. Katie McNelly has recorded 25 blocks.

“We just have a lot of options,” Fetter said. “When our passing is on, our offense gets to run full-throttle and it's a lot of fun to watch.”

Fetter arrived at North Catholic in 2018. Her teams have since won a state championship and grabbed two WPIAL crowns.

“We're really big about taking everything one at a time and putting what's already happened in the past,” Fetter said. “Last year is not necessarily as relevant. It's important that we keep looking ahead while celebrating our success and understanding what it means to have those banners in our gym.”

North will play at home in the Class 2A quarterfinals against eighth-seeded Frazier Saturday at noon.

“If you talk to any of my kids, they'll tell you it feels like a family,” Fetter said. “Usually, at this point in the season, we just don't want it to end, because we want to be together. And volleyball is the benefit of it.”

Freeport is also no stranger to the postseason. The Yellowjackets have reached the playoffs in every one of Tom Phillips' 21 years as coach. This season, they clinched their 17th straight section crown.

Freeport has played in the WPIAL finals eight times since 2010, winning five of them. The 'Jackets won a PIAA title in 2017 before reaching at least the state semifinals the next two years.

“I think our program kind of speaks for itself from the standpoint of we're going to be there at the end,” Phillips said. “This is another year where you've got to keep that swagger and that upbeat feeling.”

Oddly enough, the Yellowjackets (15-1) had to travel for their playoff-opener on Wednesday night. Still, they banished Hopewell in three sets by scores of 25-18, 25-10, 25-16 in a match played at North Catholic.

“We were a little bit disgruntled, I would say, from the fact that we (are) a No. 1 seed and we had to go to North Catholic to play (our match),” Phillips said.

At the moment, Erica Lampus is the lone senior on the floor. The team's only other senior, Sam Wuysick, is out with a concussion and will be re-evaluated a week from now.

Josie Russo and Amber Schirey have also dealt with recent injuries. The former missed the team's only defeat, which came in five sets against Hampton. The narrow loss, Phillips said, showed him that the 'Jackets could match up with the best in their section.

“The attitude of playing such a tough section, night in and night out, has really kind of hardened us and made us the team that we are,” Phillips said.

Cassidy Dell has been a leader for the team, Phillips said, pacing Freeport in assists. Freshmen Alaina Whetlinger and Leah Schrecengost are among those who've impressed in the starting lineup.

“In our system and the way that we play the game, if you have the ability to step on the court, we don't care really what grade you're in,” Phillips said. “There's a role for you to fill. Alaina and Leah have both done that this year.”

Much like North's Fetter, Phillips stresses focusing on one thing at a time.

“You don't want to look too far down the road,” Phillips said. “You just want to make sure that you play the game in front of you.”

The 'Jackets were awarded a home match in the Class 3A quarterfinals Saturday. They'll play Beaver at 2 p.m.

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