PITTSBURGH — Two teams with much different state playoff experience squared off on Tuesday at Shaler High School in the first round of the PIAA Class 2A volleyball championships.

Brookville entered the state playoffs for the first time since 2003, while Freeport made its seventh straight appearance in the Class 2A tourney. It was the Yellowjackets’ experience and not the Raiders’ momentum that proved more pivotal as they dropped the District 9 champs in three straight sets.

Despite strong starts in each of the three sets by the Lady Raiders, the Yellowjackets were able to buzz ahead with wins of 25-11, 25-13 and 25-17.

“We knew (Freeport) had the experience of being here and we have never been here, so I think we came out a little awestruck,” Brookville head coach Joyce Reitz said. “Just playing here — knowing that most teams are at home right now and we are one of the few teams left is an accomplishment in itself. I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t play as well as we would have liked, but I’m proud of my girls. They did a nice job all season.”

Brookville, who won its district title game on Saturday for the right to face 2017 PIAA champion Freeport, was aided in the District 9 championship by the mistakes of runner-up, Kane. With Freeport’s gaudy resume and reputation, Reitz admitted that such a benefit was unlikely against the WPIAL champs. Instead, it was the Lady Raiders’ defense that helped them remain competitive in the face of their own mistakes offensively.

“(Freeport’s) middle hitting and blocking is of a quality that we just haven’t seen this year. They’re an outstanding team in all facets — whether it be their ability to hit well, pass, and play defense,” Reitz said. “We were struggling to pass the ball and that took us away from how we wanted to play. Our defense is what really kept us in those games early. We had a couple instances where we would have a dig defensively that went to their side of the net, so most of our offense came from our defense.”

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The eight-year head coach credited her seniors, a group that set out before the season to snap a 16-year District 9 championship drought. Though the ride came to a sudden stop on Tuesday, the season still stands as a tremendous success and a building block for 2020. Its because of Brooke Ganoe, Lauren Hergert, Madison Johnson, Morgan Johnson, and Leah Kammerdeiner that Reitz believes the program can sustain similar runs in the future because of the culture created over the course of the summer months and into the fall.

“They’ve been a strong senior class not just with how they perform, but how they lead. They started together when they were in seventh grade and they have contributed a lot over their time with the program,” Reitz said. “We’ve won more games than we’ve lost, and that group will be missed for everything they have brought to the table.”

The Lady Raiders’ campaign comes to an end with a 17-4 mark, while Freeport (17-0) continues on to the state quarterfinals where they will face Beaver.

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