GIRLS 2A Final
#1 Freedom (19-0) vs #2 Freeport (15-3-1)
Thursday, Nov. 3 – 6 p.m. – Highmark Stadium
Live Broadcast – www.msasports.net
While heading into the 2A tournament, there really wasn’t a clear-cut favorite as many of the top contenders were always schools that seemed to be on the fringe of the playoff picture or being a legitimate contender to win a WPIAL Championship.
That changed after WPIAL/PIAA went to four classifications — especially in 2A Girls.
Sure enough, two of the teams with the best regular season records, that received first-round byes, Freedom and Freeport, have advanced to play at Highmark Stadium on Thursday night at 6 p.m.
Freedom, who combined with neighboring New Brighton this year to form a co-op, and Head Coach Colin Williams has assembled a strong title contender that has run through the regular season with an unbeaten overall record — picked up another pair of playoff wins.
The English native, who founded both Seneca Valley’s soccer programs in the 1980s and was the first coach of West Allegheny, is also coaching the boys team at Freedom too that pulled off an upset of Greensburg Central Catholic and was a semifinalist.
While Freedom’s girls program has been on the rise in recent years (they did make one WPIAL Finals appearance when in Class A in 2014, losing to Greensburg Central Cathlolic), Freeport is making its first-ever appearance in the WPIAL finals on the heels of receiving its highest seeding ever (#2 seed).
TACTICS / STRATEGIES / KEY PLAYERS
Freeport have shown the ability to score — outscoring opponents 53-12 this season. They’ll make other teams pay for making mistakes.
As Waynesburg coach, Joe Kijowski said after 3-1 loss to Freeport.
“We made some mistakes that aren’t characteristic to the way we normally play, and it cost us today. They’re too good to make mistakes against.”
Most importantly, the Yellow Jackets are a strong possession team as they’ve shown to frustrate opponents playing keep away, and building up good opportunities into the box.
“The teams start getting more physical, and there are more fouls,” said Freeport senior Cameron Lindsay to Tribune-Review‘s Doug Galasy, who had a goal and an assist in the 3-1 semifinal win vs Waynesburg. “That’s how you break teams down. You do one-touch passes, possess the ball the entire game, and they get frustrated and start playing stupid.
“That’s one of our strategies: passing, passing, passing, and once you see the pass go up forward, that’s when you go.”
And that’s what we want to hear.
Under Williams direction, Freedom also can play the possession game, and they have a talented bunch.
“Freedom is a very solid team. They don’t have a weakness to exploit. They are especially strong with their attack and pressure,” said JC Mahon, Head Coach Avonworth, a WPIAL quarterfinalist who faced and lost to Freedom three times in 2016.
“They have 4 girls, (Myla) Sharpless, Watkins, (Alexsia) Barlamas and Lynsee Monac, that any coach would love to have in their team. Most teams would dream of having two players of their quality and Freedom have four!”
Freedom’s attack is diverse. They can counter a good possession team by getting the ball to its primary scorer, Watkins, who scored 21 goals this season for the Bulldogs.
Watkins scored the only goal of the semifinal match on Saturday to beat Freeport’s tough section rivals, Highlands.
“She’s really good on the ball,” Williams said of Watkins.
“She dribbles very well. You need four players against her. You really do. It’s rewarding when you’ve got a player up front that can hold the ball as long as they like to.”
A Little Bit of WPIAL Soccer History…
As WPIAL/PIAA have moved from three to four classifications in boys and girls soccer, this is the lone classification (in either boys and girls) that only has three sections, and only has two teams that will represent the WPIAL in the PIAA playoffs.
The teams with the best records in Girls 2A this season have been an assortment of programs that have been on the fringe of playoff successes for years, but never could break through.
Many of the schools that has success in the previous Class AA, have moved up to 3A in 2016, leaving opportunities for schools like Freedom and Freeport to seize a WPIAL title.
As stated above, between the two schools, there’s only one WPIAL Finals appearance, and that was Freedom’s visit to Highmark Stadium, losing 9-1 to a very strong Greensburg Central Catholic team in 2014.