The perfect season came to an end for the Bald Eagle Area girls’ volleyball team.
Freeport, the state’s top-ranked Class 2A team according to the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association, dispatched the Lady Eagles in three grueling sets 25-23, 25-15, 25-23 Tuesday night at Penn Cambria High School.
“It was frustrating,” BEA sophomore outside hitter Grace Hugar said. “We knew we could have won. There were errors that kept building up that makes a difference.”
Hugar put down 12 kills to go with 17 digs for the Lady Eagles, who are No. 8 in the state rankings. But a lengthy drought, thanks to the Yellow Jacket defense, contributed to the loss.
The Yellow Jackets (22-3) will meet Corry in the PIAA quarterfinals on Saturday.
The Lady Eagles (19-1), making their second appearance in the state tournament in program history and first since 2014, could not contain the variety of hitting from Freeport. The Yellow Jackets got 13 kills and two blocks from Ally DeJida, 10 kills and two blocks from Sarah Hettich and eight kills from Hannah Mason.
Jordan Anderson added 10 kills for BEA, Madison Rockey gave out 38 assists, and Alyson Onder posted 20 digs.
Both teams had huge back-row performances, digging up one powerful swing after another, producing one marathon point after another. Hugar, Onder and Jackets libero Claire Crytzer were the stars of those back-row performances.
“We played good defense tonight — we really did,” Freeport coach Tom Phillips said. “We stayed active tonight, very aggressive, served pretty well tonight — yeah, pretty good job.”
BEA’s toughest stretch came when its passing got erratic, and it made Hugar predictable when she got her swings, almost always dug up with ease in the back row. Hugar had so much trouble, she went through a stretch from 3-2 of the second set to 9-7 of the third without a kill.
“It was frustrating, but the other team did well knowing what we hit,” Hugar said. “They covered that area, and when our passing’s off, we can’t hit what we want.”
Phillips said he watched a lot of videos on BEA Tuesday morning and gave his team the scouting report and, once they started listening to his advice, they had Hugar contained.
“We knew that if we could close the block and make her hit our libero, that’s what we wanted to do,” Phillips said. “We really tightened up that block a little bit. She got some good swings down the line. She’s a great player.”
She got hot late, with a 5-1 BEA run on four kills and a block from Hugar, to lead 22-20.
However up 23-21 in the third, Hugar fired a spike down the right sideline that initially was ruled touched by Freeport to give the Eagles set point. But after the four officials debated, the call was changed to the ball landing out.
“It was really hard to get back from that,” said Hugar, who thought her spike had hit a blocker’s hand and also caught the sideline.
“That’s huge because now we’re looking at Set 4,” BEA coach Larry Campbell said. “It’s a different animal then.”
BEA would not win another point and saw its season end, with small miscues magnified at this stage of the season.
“Have to be able to close out,” Campbell said. “You just stop passing. Our ball-handling broke down. That’s one of those things we see all year. That’s where we get in trouble. ... That’s where we become one-option volleyball. It makes it very difficult to score, especially against a team of big, physical blockers.”
Graduation will hit the team hard with a number of starters set to leave, but a few key players are set to return, including Hugar and Rockey.
“We’re going to be working hard,” Hugar, an underclassman, said of the offseason. “We’re going to come back next year with the same goals. We’re going to work to get back here.”