North Xtra: For Freeport, titles are fine bookends

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Freeport senior Alexis Schrecengost began and ended her scholastic volleyball career with a WPIAL title.

"We beat Indiana to win the title in my freshman year," said Schrecengost, a 5-foot-9 outside hitter. "We made it back to the finals the following year, but lost to Hopewell. Last year, we were upset in the quarterfinals [by Ambridge].

"I knew going into this year that this would be the last chance for our seniors to win another title."

And that's just what they did. Freeport, seeded No. 2 in the 21-team WPIAL Class AA bracket, captured its second title in four years with a 3-0 sweep of top-seeded Indiana.

"It couldn't be more special," Freeport coach Tom Phillips said. "These girls were marvelous tonight. They came in prepared and did what we had to do. It was a total team effort."

Winning a second title was even more meaningful for Schrecengost, who is affectionately referred to as "Shrek" by her teammates.

"I'm so excited," Schrecengost said. "I can hardly hold in my emotions."

Brittney Bianco, a 5-5 senior libero, had similar feelings.

"I have no words to describe this incredible feeling," said Bianco, who led the Yellowjackets in digs throughout the playoffs. "I'm just so blessed to be on this team."

Like Schrecengost, it was the third title appearance for Bianco.

"We were able to beat Indiana in the championship match in my freshman year," Bianco said. "It was unbelievable to get another chance to play them in a championship match. Hard work is our theme and it showed on the court."

The disappointment of falling short of a title the past two years was a motivating factor.

"Our performance the last two years motivated us to work even harder," Schrecengost said. "We wanted to win another title. It's really sentimental for us seniors to come back here and win a second title."

Freeport qualified for the WPIAL Class AA tournament by tying with Knoch for the Section 4 title. The Yellowjackets advanced to the title match with wins against Quaker Valley (3-0 in the first round), Central Valley (3-1 in the quarterfinals), and Knoch (3-2 in the semifinals).

"We faced Knoch twice in section play," Schrecengost said. "We beat them in the first half, then they beat us in the second half. Fortunately, we were able to beat them again in the semifinals."

The title match was closer than the 3-0 final score indicated. The first game was tied 19-19 before Freeport claimed a 25-22 victory, with sophomore outside hitter Zoe Pawlak recording the final three kills. The second game was tied at 20-20, but the Yellowjackets pulled out a 25-21 victory. The third game was even closer, as it was tied 23-23 when Pawlak recorded the final two kills to give Freeport the title.

Freeport was led by Pawlak, a 5-10 sophomore outside hitter, who had 22 kills and only four hitting errors.

"Our outsides were extraordinary tonight," Phillips said. "Both Zoe and Shrek played a real good game. Both were fantastic."

Freeport enters the PIAA tournament for the fourth consecutive year. The Yellowjackets blanked Hopewell, 3-0, in Tuesday's first round.

"If we can win the PIAA title, our coach is going to wear a yellow dress and we're going to cut his mustache," Schrecengost said. "That gives us an added incentive to win."

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