DuBOIS — When the brackets were finalized over the weekend for the upcoming PIAA Class 2A volleyball playoffs, the District 9 champion Redbank Valley Lady Bulldogs got a first-round matchup with WPIAL fourth seed Freeport.
Freeport happens to be the defending state champions which was upset in its district semifinal against Frazier. So when North Catholic beat Frazier in the final, that slotted the Yellowjackets against the Lady Bulldogs Tuesday at DuBois Area High School.
Redbank Valley head coach Matt Darr knew what was coming, but could do little to stem the tide in a 25-12, 25-10, 25-15 sweep by Freeport, which advances to Saturday’s quarterfinals against North Catholic or North Star.
“They were just a better team than us,” Darr said plainly. “We can give 20 reasons why, but they outplayed us. Coaches say sometimes they lost because they played bad. You play bad because the other team puts you in situations to make you play bad.
“They’re so much bigger than us. We don’t see a lot of that during the season. We tried to hit around the block and over the block. It worked sometimes, more than often as the score showed, it didn’t. They’re the defending state champions for a reason.”
And Freeport didn’t have its top player in the lineup as 6-foot-2 senior middle hitter Sarah Hettich has been dealing with an injury all season.
It didn’t need her against Redbank Valley as the trio of senior Ally DeJidas, junior MacKensey Jack and junior Isabella Russo dominated the match that took just under an hour to complete.
DeJidas finished with nine kills, two blocks and one service ace. Jack had eight kills and three aces and Russo drilled home nine kills.
Again, Darr saw it coming.
“They told us Saturday after the finals we were going to play Freeport or Serra and as soon as the girls heard Freeport, that’s who they wanted right away,” Darr said. “Freeport has been coming to our junior high tournament for probably 15 years. It’s been a big rivalry and it’s usually us and them in the finals in seventh and eighth grade, so that’s who they wanted to play and you can’t say enough about that.
“There are 1,000 reasons why love these girls and that’s another one. They just wanted to play the best.”
Freeport started the night with a 9-0 lead in the opening set and 16-4 run to start the second set. The Yellowjackets started the third 6-0, but Redbank Valley got within 16-12 before Freeport pulled away with the 25-15 win.
Junior Taylor King led the Lady Bulldogs with 10 kills and one block.
“She’s probably our most improved player,” Darr said. “There are a lot of them, but from last year to this year, she was maybe our backup middle last year and she really stepped it up … The nice thing is that she’s a junior.”
Montana Hetrick had three kills while Jordan Milliron and Torilynn Nelson each had two. Becca Kunselman served an ace.
After dropping their first match of the year to D9 Class 1A champion Clarion, the Lady Bulldogs won 17 straight and didn’t lose again until Tuesday night, wrapping it up at 17-2.
“It was a great season,” Darr said. “If you told us at the beginning of the year we’d lose one game in the regular season and win a district title and play the defending state champion, I think all of us would’ve signed up for that right away.”
And of course, Darr is looking for his returning players to carry the torch into next season.
“These seniors really brought the program back with their culture and this group of underclassmen have a lot to live up to,” he said. “But they have the taste of it. We got beat by Kane last year, but this year the underclassmen see what it takes and I just can’t say enough about the team in general and how they stuck together through some adversity.”