In what has become a budding rivalry, the top-seeded Liberty Hawks girls volleyball team couldn’t keep pace with the fourth-seeded Minarets Mustangs to get eliminated from the Div. IV Central Section semifinals for the second year in a row.
Last year, the Hawks lost to the Mustangs in Minarets in the semifinals and were hoping the results would reverse this year at Liberty, but the Mustangs won the final two sets for a 3-1 victory Tuesday.
“The band, the cheerleaders, that was the most people we have had for a volleyball match, from both teams,” head coach Brandon St. Lucia said. “It was a fun team to play in and to coach.”
The Hawks had two set points in the first set, but lost 28-26. However, they withstood a late comeback attempt for a 25-23 victory in the second set. The Mustangs took control midway though the third set and picked up a 25-22 victory. An early run in the fourth set gave Minarets the momentum they needed in a 25-16 victory.
“Our Achilles heel all season has been our serve receive,” St. Lucia said. “We’ve struggled with it over and over. We’ve done everything we can to fix it. It’s a mental issue. It’s the girls getting in their minds they can pass that ball. Without that pass, we can’t have that offense and that’s what happened in sets three and four. We serve tougher to them at practice.”
Hannah Chase led the Hawks with 22 kills, but she had just six in the final two sets. Olivia Kaczmarek stepped up with 12 kills and Karsyn Woods added six.
“It’s disappointing to lose here. It seems like we’re always the bridesmaids, never the bride,” St. Lucia said. “Hopefully with our returning players and bright spots we saw with our freshman coming in and playing well on serve receive and defense, the future is still bright for Liberty.”
Despite the loss, St. Lucia was still happy about the four-year run he has had at Liberty.
We’ve had success since we’ve been out here,” he said. “It’s four years and our record has improved every season. From 18 wins, to 21 wins, 27 wins and now 30. As long as we can keep improving, it’s a success for us.”
Minarets used a four-point run to open a 10-4 lead to open the set. Liberty stayed in the game with side out kills from Chase, Tiffany Herron and Kaczmarek. After a side out kill from Sadie Vasquez, Tayler Sefton served three points, including a kill from Chase to cut the Mustangs’ lead to 14-11.
Madie Devine served up two more points to get within one. However, Minarets opened the lead to five before a Kaczmarek kill. Paige Peterson served up a point, but Minarets got the side out.
After a Mustangs’ service error, Sefton served up two points, including a Chase kill to cut the lead to one.
Minarets got a back row kill to get to set point, but Chase put down a side out kill to hold off the Mustangs. Devine served up two straight points, including a Chase tip kill, to take a 25-24 lead and get to set point.
The Mustangs got a kill to tie the set, but Vasquez put down a kill after a diving dig from Devine for a Liberty set point. However, the Mustangs closed out the set with three straight points for a 28-26 victory.
The Hawks opened a 4-1 lead to open the second set behind two Chase kills.
Minarets bounced back to take a 6-5 lead before a Woods kill. A Devine side out kill and two Chase kills opened a 13-8 Liberty lead.
After eight straight side outs, the Hawks got an ace from Kaylee White for an 18-12 lead. The Mustangs added an ace, but Woods put down a kill for a 19-14 lead.
The Hawks opened a 22-16 lead, but the Mustangs came back with a five-point run to cut the lead to one. Chase put down a side out kill to get to set point, leading 24-22. After a Liberty service error, Woods ended the match with a kill for a 25-23 victory.
In the third set, Minarets took a 7-4 lead and then took an 11-5 lead.
White served the Hawks back in the game with two Kaczmarek kills and a Woods kill to cut Minarets’ lead to one.
However, the Mustangs opened the lead to five and then used a five-point run for a 21-13 lead.
After a Vasquez kill, Devine served up three straight points, including two Chase kills, to cut the lead to four. Chase put down a side out kill and served up two more points to cut the lead to 23-21. However, three straight side outs gave the Mustangs a 25-22 victory.
In the third set, the Hawks took an early 5-4 lead after a Kaczmarek kill. However, it was all Minarets from there. The Mustangs answered with five straight points to take a 9-5 lead. Another three-point run opened a 14-7 lead and two straight points gave the Mustangs a 19-11 lead.
The Hawks tried to come back after a Devine side out kill. A Kaczmarek and a Minarets out of bounds hit cut the lead to five. However, a service error halted Liberty’s momentum.
The Mustangs closed out the set scoring five of the final six points for a 25-16 victory and end Liberty’s season for the second season in a row.