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Hawks advance with epic win

In a match that could be called one for the ages, the No. 1 seeded Liberty Hawks girls volleyball team pushed through in the fifth set for a quarterfinal victory over No. 9 Kingsburg. 


The Hawks had set point in all five sets before closing the match 15-7 in the fifth set for a 3-2 victory to advance to the semifinals of the Div. IV Central Section playoffs. They will battle No. 4 seed Minarets on Tuesday in a rematch of last year’s semifinal match, but this time, it will be at Liberty. 


“That’s the best No. 9 seed I’ve ever seen,” head coach Brandon St. Lucia said. “Our girls stepped up in the fifth set and didn’t want to go down. These five-setters are not fun games to be in, but they’re fun when you come out on top. We played Minarets like that earlier this season. I’m sure the match-up on Tuesday will be similar.”


The first three sets each took more than 25 points to win, including a 34-32 Kingsburg victory in the third set to give them a 2-1 lead. Liberty came back to win the fourth set 25-23 and closed out the victory in the fifth set. The Hawks had 15 set points in the first three sets before closing out the match with wins in the final two sets. 


“After we lost the second one, I told them to push through like game one,” St. Lucia said. “It didn’t happen. Set four, it was coming to the end down and I thought maybe it was our turn and it was. There was definitely pressure on them, but in that fifth set we stepped up and played when we needed to play.”


Earlier this season, the Hawks defeated Minarets in five sets. Three of the five sets went longer than required. The Hawks also had an epic five-set victory over Sierra-Tollhouse, who is seeded No. 2 in Div. IV. Three of the sets went longer than required, including a 26-24 win in the fifth set. 


“Having experience in this situation is huge,” St. Lucia said. “Olivia (Kaczmarek) stepped up in that fifth set and I can attribute that to playing in that Minarets match and her success against Sierra.”


Hannah Chase led the team with 21 kills despite being limited in the fifth set with an injured ankle, although she didn’t miss a rotation. Kaczmarek recorded a career-high 15 kills, including four in the final nine points in the match. 


Karsyn Woods had seven kills and Sadie Vasquez had six. Tiffany Herron had five kills and setter Madie Devine recorded five kills. Even libero Tayler Sefton recorded two kills. 


“Hannah is a huge part of our team and the teams we play know that,” St. Lucia said. “Tonight, Olivia and Sadie stepped up to fill a hole we were missing. It was an all-around great effort.”


The Hawks started the close match taking an 8-6 lead in the first set. Kingsburg then scored six straight points to take a 13-10 lead before a Chase side out kill. 


Devine served up four straight points, including an ace to get the Hawks a 14-13 lead. In the run, Chase combined with Herron on a dual block and Woods put down a kill for the lead. 


Kingsburg eventually took a 16-15 lead, but the Hawks bounced back after side out kills from Woods, Kaczmarek and Devine to take a 20-19 lead. Vasquez added a kill for a two-point lead. 


After a Kingsburg side out, Chase put down a kill for the side out. Vasquez added a kill and Chase combined with Herron to get the Hawks to set point, 24-20. 


However, Kingsburg got the side out and tied the score at 24 before a service error gave the Hawks their fifth set point. Paiten Harlow closed the set with an ace for a 26-24 win. 


In the second set, Chase put down two kills for a 4-0 lead, but Kingsburg scored four straight points to tie the set. Liberty got the side out and Herron put down a kill in a four-point run for an 8-4 lead. 


The Vikings chipped away at the Liberty lead and tied the set at 11. Kingsburg scored three straight points for a 14-12 lead. 


Chase had a hand in the next five Liberty points to give the Hawks a 17-15 lead. She had three kills, a solo block and combined with Kaczmarek for a dual block.


The Vikings battled back to tie the set at 18 before a Kaczmarek side out kill. Woods and Kaczmarek added kill to extend Liberty’s lead to 21-18. 


After a kill from Sefton, the Hawks faced set point. However, the Vikings scored three straight points to tie the set at 24. Chase gave the Hawks set point with a kill, but the Vikings got the side out. Another Liberty side out gave the Hawks a chance at set point, but Kingsburg got the side out and closed out the set with three straight points for a 28-26 victory. 


Kingsburg opened the third set with four straight points and opened a 13-4 lead before the Hawks started to respond after a Devine kill. With Sefton serving, the Hawks scored six straight points to cut the lead to 13-11. Sefton had a kill and Chase recorded a kill and a block in the run. 


Kingsburg answered with two points, but the Hawks battled back to tie the set at 17, 18 and 19 before scoring three straight points, after kills from Devine and Vasquez, for a 22-19 lead. A Woods kill gave the Hawks a 23-20 lead, but the Vikings got the side out and scored four straight points for set point, leading 24-23. 


Vasquez got a kill to tie the set and Devine served an ace for set point. However, Kingsburg reversed the tables with two straight points and get to set point. 


Two Chase side out kill and an ace gave the Hawks set point at 28-27. The two teams exchanged five straight side outs before Kingsburg got the advantage with an ace. 


Liberty took the advantage right back with a Woods kill and a Chase kill for a 32-31 lead. The Vikings closed the set with three straight points for a 34-32 victory and lead the match 2-1. 


“Serve receive has always been our issue,” St. Lucia said. “Serve receive is our nightmare. Sets two and three, we had set point each set and serve receive was a struggle and it’s been a struggle all year.”


The Vikings took an early 9-5 lead in the fourth set, but a kill from Chase cut the lead to one. 


Kills from Herron and Chase gave the Hawks a 12-11 lead, but the Vikings scored three straight points and four straight points to open an 18-13 lead. 


Liberty started to take control after a Kaczmarek kill. Paige Peterson served up two straight points on a Woods solo block and a Devine kill to cut the lead to 19-17. 


After a Kingsburg side out, Woods got a side out kill and Chase put down a kill to tie the set at 20. 
Six straight side outs later and the teams were tied at 23 after a Kaczmarek kill. Chase served up two straight points and the Hawks took the fourth set 25-23. 


In the fifth set, the Hawks took the early lead. Chase had a solo block and Devine served an ace for a 3-0 lead. A Chase side out kill helped the Hawks open a 5-1 lead. 


Kaczmarek went to work, putting down four kills in a five-point stretch to help give the Hawks an 11-4 lead. Woods had a solo block and Kaylee White had an ace in a five points run. 


Kingsburg scored two straight points, but Peterson served up a point and Woods put back a Kingsburg hit to get to set point. 


After a Liberty service error, Woods closed the match with a kill off a Kingsburg hit for a 15-7 lead and send the Hawks to the semifinals for the second straight season.