Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty outside hitter Hannah Chase rises up for one of her game-high 23 kills in Saturday’s Div. IV Central Section title match to Immanuel.
VISALIA — Playing in the program’s first Valley Championship match was something to be proud of for the Liberty Hawks girls volleyball team.
However, the Hawks wasn’t just satisfied with being there. However, the second-seeded Hawks lost a tough first set, couldn’t gain any momentum in the second set and wasn’t able to avoid a three-set sweep to No. 5 Immanuel-Reedley.
“It’s fun to be here,” Liberty head coach Brandon St. Lucia said. “It was our first time here as a program. You could see it in our faces and see it on the court. We tried to be a little too perfect. We made mistakes and didn’t know how to react.”
Senior Hannah Chase led the Hawks with 23 kills.
“I’m very proud of our season,” Chase said. “The game didn’t go the way we wanted to. We played with everything we had. I’m happy with that. I felt my team didn’t rely on me as much. We worked as a whole.”
Despite closing the season with a loss in the Valley Championship match, the Hawks have some consolation. They get to host a Northern California CIF State playoff game Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Hawks earned the eighth seed in the Div. IV State Championship match and hosts No. 9 Manteca. The winner will probably face top seed Presentation-San Jose on Friday, who have a match with No. 16 Pierce-Arbuckle on Wednesday.
“I think that no Liberty team has come this far,” setter Madison Devine said. “People doubted us. We worked together and we’re here. Just to go on to state. No one has done that either. To do that is cool, as well.”
“Hannah is not a six-man team,” St. Lucia said. “We have to move the ball around a bit. We will try to work on that and prepare better for the state tournament.”
Chase had 23 kills, but the rest of the team combined for 12 with Devine leading the rest of the Hawks with four kills.
The Hawks took the early lead after a Chase side out kill and Paiten Harlow served up two points.
Liberty extended the lead to four after Immanuel hit out of bounds and Audrina Vasquez and Karsyn Woods combined on a dual block.
The Eagles got an ace, but Devine got the side out on a dump kill. Immanuel was called for in the net and Liberty led 12-8.
Sadie and Audrina Vasquez combined for a dual block and Immanuel hit out of bounds while Liberty kept its four-point lead.
The Eagles came back with three straight kills and a Liberty hit out of bounds tied the set at 16.
Devine recorded a side out kill and Immanuel was called for a lift and the Hawks led 18-16.
The Eagles recorded three straight kills to overtake the Hawks and lead 20-19.
A service error gave the Hawks the side out and Chase put down a kill for a 21-20 lead.
Two Liberty mistakes led to two straight Immanuel points, but Chase put down a side out and Woods served an ace for a 23-22 lead.
After an Immanuel side out kill, Chase sent a kill off a block to get to set point leading 24-23. However, Immanuel got a kill off a block to tie the set. The Eagles blocked a Liberty hit for a point and got another kill off the block for a 26-24 win after three straight points to close out the first set.
The Eagles opened the third set with a 3-1 lead. However, a Chase side out kill, a Devine dump kill helped close the lead to one. Immanuel then scored five straight points, including two aces, for a 10-5 lead.
Chase put down a kill and Richey blocked an attack to cut the lead to three. However, the Eagles recorded four kills in a five-point run to open a 17-8 lead.
The Eagles opened the lead to 20-10 before a Chase side out kill. She added another kill to help cut the lead to seven. Immanuel used an ace for a 22-13 lead.
Chase put down two kills in a three-point run to close to six points. Immanuel got the side out kill and recorded back-to-back aces for a 25-17 victory.
In the third set, an Audrina Vasquez side out kill and a Chase kill helped give the Hawks a 4-3 lead. A Chase ace kept the lead at one. However, Immanuel used a missed serve and an ace for a three-point run.
Sadie Vasquez got a side out with a solo block. Chase put down a back row kill and Woods and Devine combined on a dual block to take a 10-9 lead.
Immanuel scored three straight points to reclaim the lead, 12-10.
Richey stopped the run with a kill and Chase put down another back row kill to tie the set at 12.
An Immanuel service error led to a pair of Chase kills and a Devine dump kill for a 17-13 lead.
The Eagles chipped away at the lead despite side out kills from Chase and Audrina Vasquez gave the Hawka a 19-16 lead.
Then, the Hawks’ Achilles heel struck — serve receive. All season, the Hawks have been shaky on serve receive and the Eagles finally found a server to take advantage.
Immanuel served up four aces in a six-point run to turn a three-point deficit into a four-point lead. The Eagles served up 12 aces against the Hawks. Liberty lost three sets by a combined 15 points.
The Hawks got a service error and Richey put down a kill, but it was too little, too late.
Liberty hit into the net to give Immanuel match point. Then, the Eagles put down a cross-court kill for the final point of the match for a 25-21 victory.