Despite roster turnover, Freeport girls soccer aims for 3rd straight section crown
Freeport girls soccer coach Brittni Grenninger jumped right into the middle of a recent practice by kicking the ball around with her players, moving from one side of the field to the other to keep everyone engaged.
The enthusiasm Grenninger exudes in training is felt by her players every time they step onto the field.
“She’s probably the most fun coach I’ve ever had,” junior forward Sidney Shemanski said. “She brings a lot of energy to us on and off the field. She really gets into it. I think it’s good for our team, because it helps us get pumped up.”
Not only has Grenninger infused energy into the program, but she’s brought stability, part of the equation that’s led to the Yellowjackets producing good results recently.
Freeport won a pair of section titles, a state playoff game and made WPIAL finals and semifinals appearances of the last two years.
After losing 14 players and six starters to graduation, the Yellowjackets hope to continue building on their recent run by making the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
“We’ve been here a few years and we have a core group of girls that are here year after year,” said Grenninger, who is entering her fifth season with the Yellowjackets. “No matter who we graduate, we consistently have 10 or so letterwinners back. Even though we have turnover there’s still a high quality of player here that hasn’t graduated.”
Freeport has five returning starters to build around from a team that finished 16-3-1 and 11-0-1 in Section 2-2A, falling 7-0 to Waynesburg in the semifinals. Those returners -- Shemanski, Abby Bastaja, Carli Giori, Autumn Kriebel and Kaitlyn Ritter -- are spread throughout the lineup, giving them depth in each part of the field.
“We’re going to be relying on them with their playoff experience and their pace,” Grenninger said. “It’s one thing for these young girls to come in and practice, but the speed of the game, especially in our section games, is pretty fast. We’ll be counting of those five to set the tone on the field with their play.”
Shemanski has been one of Freeport’s top scorers over the last two years, with 18 goals and a team-best 22 assists last year. She will be counted upon for offense with the departure of Valley News Dispatch Player of the Year Kaylee Comperatore, a 32-goal scorer. The Yellowjackets also graduated first-team defender Piper Claypool and second-team midfielder Sarah Lipniskis.
After learning from players like Comperatore, Shemanski is ready to take on a bigger leadership role as a team captain.
“It’s a big step going from an underclassman to an upperclassman,” Shemanski said. “It takes a lot of determination on and off the field to lead the girls. I want to help them build confidence.”
Freeport has a 24-game unbeaten streak in Section 2 over the last two years, going 22-0-2 in that span. The last section loss was a 3-1 setback against Highlands on Oct. 20, 2015.
Burrell, Springdale and Deer Lakes also made the playoffs in Section 2 last year. Springdale moved back down to Class A. Apollo-Ridge, which made the Class A postseason a year ago, moves into the section, which also has Valley, East Allegheny and Highlands.
Given their recent run of success, the Yellowjackets are the benchmark for teams to reach. Grenninger reminds her team they need to stay focused to accomplish another section championship.
“It’s hard to maintain that level because teams are always gunning for you, so we have to stay on top of that,” Grenninger said. “We had a bad game against Waynesburg (in the semifinals) last year, and I hope that’s driving them, because you’re not guaranteed that spot every year. I’m hoping that added fuel to the fire for this year.”