PITTSBURGH — Freedom Area High School controlled the vast majority of their match against Springdale Friday night. This led them to the WPIAL 1A Girls Championship title, 3-0, at Highmark Stadium at Station Square.
For the Bulldogs (14-4), they win their third WPIAL title in the past six years. They won the 1A title back in 2018 and the 2A title in 2016, when the PIAA changed to four classifications. It is also their second straight season with a win over the Dynamos (13-4) in the playoffs, as the Bulldogs defeated the Dynamos in the third place game to go on to the PIAA State playoffs.
Bulldogs head coach Collin Williams said that the Dynamos didn’t have much speed. His plan for the Bulldogs made them cover that, which he said came to fruition in an explosive second half.
“I just felt at the beginning of the season, we had a different group of girls,” Bulldogs head coach Colin Williams said. “So we balanced it out a little bit different. You can see the difference in the second half, we adjusted. We changed things a little bit, not just kick-and-run, and we played really well the second half. I mean, we dominated them the second half.”
Both teams played back and forth the first 15 minutes of the game, with Springdale having the better of the chances.
Freedom got the best chance of the first half as a cross hit the hand of Springdale senior midfielder Mikayla Dileo, forcing the referee to call a penalty.
Bulldogs senior forward Julia Mohrbacher stepped up to the spot and put it to Dynamos senior goalkeeper Caity Stec’s right to give her team the lead in the 19th minute.
Springdale almost responded in the 25th minute. Sophomore midfielder Carissa Welch turned and shot from outside the box, but her shot hit the post and went out for a goal kick.
During half-time, Freedom made some adjustments to play a more attacking style of play and put the game away.
They did just that, as one minute into the second half, they scored to take a 2-0 lead. On the right wing, sophomore midfielder Riley Tokar put in a great pass to junior forward Shaye Bailey, who chipped it into the net to double the Bulldogs score.
Bailey would score in the 55th minute to make it a 3-0 game and end any doubts about a Freedom victory. Tokar again played a big role in the build up, along with Mohrbacher, with a good through ball that found Bailey who put it past Stec for her second goal of the second half.
With another brilliant performance for Freedom, Bailey now has a team high 36 goals on the season.
“Starting off, I kept missing and I was getting in my own head,” Bailey said. “But then as soon as halftime came, I loosened up. I just came out here. I took a little bit of ice cream from a kid that I know. He said that was my luck. So shoutout to Bryson for that.”
The only chance for the Dynamos in the second half came in the 64th minute. Sophomore forward Molly Hurely put a ball in on goal, that Bulldogs first-year goalkeeper Trinity Votjko kept out with her feet.
The Bulldogs continued to create chances throughout the second half, which drained the stamina of the Dynamos’ ability to make a comeback.
Mohrbacher made two assists on both of Bailey’s goals tonight and is an important part of Freedom’s attack. She scored more than 100 goals over her high school career, so far, and committed to play for Youngstown State in college.
She said that the connection she has with Bailey is special and that her talent makes her such a threat offensively.
“To have somebody with that speed and talent on the team it’s so good,” Mohrbacher said. “So I know, anytime I got the ball, I can play it up to her and just trust that she’s got it and then she can look to me. The connection’s just there. It’s so great.”
Mohrbacher also finally wins a WPIAL title after a few years of missed opportunities for the title. Before the Bulldogs go on to play states, she is going to enjoy this championship after those long years of hard work and sacrifice.
“It’s incredible, Mohrbacher said. “I’ve wanted this for so long and to finally get it, I’m so happy.”
Williams said that his team is ready and able to win a state title this season, as they are the best team in 1A.
“I really do think we can make a run,” Williams said. “I think we were always the best team in 1A. Not to put anybody, Greensburg [Central Catholic] or Springdale. We just played tougher non-section games and it really taught us more how to play against the tougher teams. Be resilient. It’s an attribute to the kids and the way they play.”