Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Zoey Richey rises up for a kill during a four-set victory over Porterville on Tuesday.
The Liberty Hawks girls volleyball team made their third straight semifinals, but are looking for that ever-elusive Div. IV Valley Championship match.
The second seeded Hawks advanced to a semifinal match with No. 6 Dos Palos, who upset No. 3 Taft, on Thursday. The winner of the match will play today at 12:30 p.m. at College of the Sequoias in Visalia for the Div. IV championship.
Liberty went into Tuesday’s quarterfinal match against No. 7 Porterville as the heavy favorite and showed it the first two sets, winning 25-13 and 25-13. After a hiccup in the third set, the Hawks closed out the match with a 25-14 win in the fourth set to advance to the semifinals.
“They came out ready to play,” head coach Brandon St. Lucia said. “There was a different energy tonight. They took care of business early and handedly in sets one and two. We went back to domination mode and handled business in the fourth set. We had a lot of unforced errors in the third set.”
The Hawks, who had problems in the third set in their first round match with Lindsay before winning 25-20, lost the third set to Porterville, 25-22.
“We tell the girls don’t get complacent and keep working hard,” St. Lucia said. “That third set curse falls upon us every game. Fortunately we can pull through in four and five, but we have to figure a way to keep up that excitement in the third set.”
Hannah Chase led the Hawks with 25 kills, more than the rest of the Hawks. Zoey Richey added five kills and Audrina Vasquez and Karsyn Woods had four each.
The Hawks also served up eight aces and kept the Panthers off balance.
“Coming into the game, if we served them tough, we knew their setter was a little slow and they would be out of sync,” St. Lucia said. “We served tough and put the other team out of sync.”
The two teams battled to open the first set with Liberty taking a 10-8 lead after the teams exchanged 11 straight side outs.
With Woods serving, Chase put down two kills and recorded a solo while Madison Devine had a dump kill in a five-point run for a 15-8 lead.
After a side out, Chase put down a side out kill and the Hawks went on another five-point run. Paiten Harlow served up two aces and Chase had a solo block in the run.
After a trade in side outs, Chase served an ace for a 23-11 lead. Richey put down a kill to get to set point and the Hawks finished the set, 25-13.
Porterville took the early lead in the second set, but the Hawks battled back. Side out kills from Woods and Chase and another kill from Vasquez helped tie the set at five.
After six straight side outs, the Hawks started to take control of the set. With Stephanie Madrigal serving, taking over for the injured Paige Peterson, Woods recorded a kill and solo block and Madrigal served an ace for a 12-8 lead.
Peterson, the team’s libero, hurt her knee saving a ball and keeping it in play. She was helped off the field and later returned to the Liberty bench with ice on the back of her knee.
“Paige is a big part of the team,” St. Lucia said. “Stephanie stepped in and played well on defense. I have confidence in Karsyn playing defense. She came and continued to play well from the back row.”
Porterville cut Liberty’s lead to one before a Richey side out kill. She served up two aces in a five-point run and gave the Hawks a 19-12 lead.
A trade in side outs sent Woods behind the service line. Chase put down a kill and Porterville hit two attacks out of bounds. A Chase kill gave the Hawks side out and Sadie Vasquez finished the set with a kill and a 25-13 victory.
In the third set, the Hawks jumped out to a 5-2 lead behind two Chase kills. However, the Panthers took a 9-8 lead after a four-point run.
The Panthers eventually worked the lead to four, but the Hawks continued to fight back. Audrina Vasquez put down a side out kill.
After a Liberty service error, Chase put down a kill. Porterville hit two balls out of bounds and Chase put down another kill to tie the set at 22. However, Porterville closed the set with three straight points for a 25-22 victory.
In the third set, Devine served up two aces for a 3-0 lead. Side out kills from Woods and three from Chase, followed by a solo block from Sadie Vasquez opened a 9-5 lead.
Chase and Richey put down kills and Liberty lead 13-6.
Harlow sent an attack that caused a net violation for a side out kill. Richey added another kill for a 16-7 Liberty lead.
Richey served up two more points to open the lead to 10 followed by a Chase kill.
After a Porterville side out, Chase put down a tip kill and another faster one for a 23-11 lead.
Porterville got the side out and recorded an ace to cut the lead to 11. Chase put down a side out kill to get to set point.
After another Porterville side out, Chase put down her hardest kill of the night for the match-ender.