Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
The Liberty Hawks girls volleyball team celebrates its Madera Classic Volleyball Tournament victory Saturday after defeating Atwater in straight sets.
Since the Madera Classic started more than 10 years ago, a Madera team hasn’t won its hometown tournament.
The Liberty Hawks now have that recognition, continuing its undefeated run to open the season with a two-set victory over Atwater on Saturday to capture its first Madera Classic volleyball tournament title.
“This is huge,” head coach Brandon St. Lucia said. “We are a Div. IV school coming here to compete. We’ve never made it past the semifinals. This is a big step for Liberty.”
Both Madera South and Madera have advanced to the championship match, but neither has won the first place plaque.
The Hawks entered the tournament with an unblemished 14-0 record and continued non-conference play Tuesday at Fresno Christian and at McLane on Friday.
“If we keep the ball on the court, we’ll beat people,” St. Lucia said. “We hit the implode button and it gets a little ugly. They persevered and pushed through.”
Liberty’s Hannah Chase and Madie Devine were named to the All-Tournament team. Chase had 29 kills in four bracket-play matches. Devine added 11 kills to go with many assists.
“Hannah is a big part of our team,” St. Lucia said. “We have other hitters and numbers this year.”
Liberty, the No. 1 seed entering bracket play, faced No. 16 Dinuba and the Emperors gave the Hawks all they could handle. Dinuba used a five- and four-point run to record a 25-18 victory in the first set.
In the second set, the Hawks began to right the ship with six different players recording a kill. Zoey Richey closed out the match serving up five straight points, including an ace. Olivia Kaczmarek and Karsyn Woods put down kills in the run for a 25-14 victory.
Liberty ran away with the third set. Kills by Chase and Tiffany Herron helped to open a 4-0 lead. Two Richey kills, a Chase kill and a Paige Peterson ace led to seven straight points and an 11-2 lead. A kill by Richey and a dual block from Woods and Herron led to a 14-4 lead. Herron ended the game with a kill for a 15-5 victory.
In the quarterfinals, the Hawks faced King’s Academy-Sunnyvale, the tournament’s lone out-of-town team. Liberty jumped out to a 13-7 lead after a kill by libero Tayler Sefton. However, King’s scored five straight points to get back in the game and the teams stayed close, tying the score at 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20.
Woods and Kaczmarek put down kills for a 22-20 lead. Sefton served up two aces and King’s hit out of bounds for a 25-20 victory.
In the second set, the Hawks quickly fell behind when King’s scored the first five points of the game. King’s kept an 11-7 lead, but the Hawks got a Richey kill to cut the lead to two.
Two kills by Chase cut the lead to one. Chase put down a side out kill, Woods put down a kill and Chase served an ace to tie the score. Kills by Richey and Woods put down kills for an 18-17 lead.
King’s scored two more points to reclaim the lead. After a King’s service error, Richey served an ace and Kaczmarek put down a kill for a 21-19 lead. King’s battled back to take a 23-21 lead, but Kaczmarek put down a kill to help Liberty tie the set at 23.
King’s got the side out for set point, but Chase put down a side out kill to tie the set at 24. Liberty scored the final two points with Chase putting down the final point with a kill for a 26-24 victory.
Liberty faced North Sequoia League rival Sierra-Tollhouse in the semifinals. The Hawks trailed 16-11, but cut the lead to three. However, Sierra built the lead back to 19-14 before the Hawks responded after a service error.
Sefton served up five straight points, including an ace and a Chase kill, to take a 20-19 lead. After a trade in side outs, the Hawks scored the final five points of the set, including a Richey kill for a 25-20 win.
Liberty took the early lead in the second set behind kills from Richey and Kaczmarek for a 12-5 advantage.
Sierra scored six straight points to get within one and added four more points for a 16-14 lead. Liberty cut the lead to one, but the Chieftains added three more points for a 19-15 lead. Despite an ace from Chase, Sierra opened a 22-16 lead.
Liberty got an ace and a kill from Herron to cut the lead to four. However, after a pair of service errors, Sierra closed out the set with a kill for a 25-19 win.
In the third set, Sierra jumped out to a 10-7 lead. Liberty battled back with Chase recorded three side out kills with the final one cutting Sierra’s lead to one.
Two back row kills from Chase gave the Hawks set point, 14-13. However, a side out tied the set. Liberty got a side out solo block from Woods and an ace to win the match, 16-14.
Liberty faced Atwater in the championship match and quickly took a 5-1 lead behind a Kaczmarek kill and a dual block from Chase and Herron.
Atwater cut the lead to one before Liberty extended its lead to three. The Falcons scored five straight points for a 16-13 lead before the Hawks went on a three-point run to take the lead. Richey put down a side out kill, followed by kills from Woods and Chase for an 18-17 lead.
Woods put down another kill to get the serve back and Sefton served up six straight points, including three aces for a 25-18 win. Kaczmarek put down two kills in the run.
Both teams battled close in the second set before kills from Richey, Woods and Devine gave the Hawks a 12-9 lead.
Chase put down a side out kill, Peterson served an ace and Devine added another kill for an 18-12 lead. Chase added an ace and Liberty lead 21-13.
After another Atwater service error, Richey put down a kill for a 23-14 lead. Richey’s side out kill led to match point and Atwater hit into the net for a 25-15 victory and the tournament championship.
After two rounds of pool play, the Coyotes were given the No. 8 seed in bracket play.
However, the Coyotes lost to No. 9 King’s Academy in two sets and were eliminated from the tournament.
“We are trying to place in the top five,” head coach Meghan Haas said. “That didn’t work out. We tried to get everyone playing time as we get closer to league. We are trying to iron some things out.”
Alyssa Burton led the Coyotes with seven kills in the 25-23, 25-20 loss.
“Alyssa Burton did really well today,” Haas said. “I don’t know what lit a fire with her. She was working hard and made a big difference when we could get the ball to her.”
Lilly Ascencio added five kills in the loss.
“We did some really great things today, but some poor things,” Haas said. “Our consistency in one set is all over the place. We’ll do something great and get aced three times in a row. The inconsistencies are killing us.”
The Coyotes get some time off before playing at Clovis North on Thursday.
Madera South Stallions
The Stallions recorded one win in two rounds of pool play and were given the No. 13 seed against Sierra in bracket play
The Stallions were eliminated after a straight-set loss to the Chieftains.
“We ran a lot of different rotations and ran a lot of different things with league coming up,” head coach Travis McEowen said. “We had a couple of girls missing. It’s the next man up and go with it. We learned new things to get ready for league.”
McEowen has been impressed with the work of middle blocker Lanaye Brewer, who has taken a leadership role of the team, both on and off the court.
“There was one practice, she asked if she could stay after,” McEowen said. “Ever since then, it’s really clicked. She got extra time hitting the ball and working on chemistry with the setter. The leadership has always been there, but confidence was the issue. At first, it wasn’t connecting. Once she got that connection, she’s been leading her team in kills and blocks every set in every match.
The Stallions will take the next week off in preparation of County/Metro Athletic Conference play.
“We had our ups and downs and sometimes we had more downs than ups,” McEowen said. “We kept getting back up and fighting and learning the sprit of never dying.”