The Madera South Stallions girls volleyball team won a Valley Championship in 2010 and the Madera Coyotes won a Valley Championship in 2012, but the Liberty Hawks, Div. IV runners-up this year, did what those two championship teams couldn’t do — win a CIF State playoff match.
The Hawks, seeded eighth in their bracket of the Div. IV CIF State Girls Volleyball Championship, defeated ninth seeded Manteca on Wednesday at Liberty to advance to the northern region quarterfinals.
“It feels pretty good. I thought playing in Valley would feel good, but winning this state game feels pretty good,” head coach Brandon St. Lucia said. “It hasn’t been done before. These girls have made history every year and continue to make it. We’ll see how it goes Saturday.”
Liberty overcame a 25-22 loss in the first set, but won the next three sets and advance to tonight’s quarterfinal match against top seed Presentation-San Jose, who was a three-set winner Wednesday.
“I yelled at them,” St. Lucia said about what he told the team between the first and second sets. “I told them this is not how we play. We need to step up and take care of the ball. We control the ball, we control our destiny. I’ve said that all season long. We know we can play with anybody as long as we take care of the ball.”
Hannah Chase led the Hawks with 28 kills and carried the team for the first three sets.
However, the rest of the team started to come alive in the fourth set, including middle blocker Karsyn Woods. She recorded five of her eight kills and three of her blocks in the fourth set while also serving strong to increase Liberty’s lead.
“We’ve known from the beginning of the season that, besides Hannah, she was going to be our next-best option,” St. Lucia said. “She just takes care of the ball. She knows where to place the ball at the right time. She blossomed at the right time in the fourth set. Her tips were money tonight.”
“Once we started getting used to the team, I realized what spots were open and where to hit," Woods said. “My serve is something I’ve been working on for a while. I try to pick out the weakest person and serve them. At the beginning, it was, ‘This might be our last game and let’s have fun.’ In the fourth set, it was, ‘We can win this and keep going.’”
The Hawks got off to a shaky start, trailing 11-4 in the first set. Behind a Woods tip kill and solo block and a Chase kill, Liberty cut Manteca’s lead to two.
Manteca opened the lead back to eight, but the Hawks kept battling back. A Madison Devine kill and two serves from Stephanie Madrigal cut the lead, again, to two, 19-17.
Two Manteca service errors and two serves from Woods that resulted in Manteca hitting into the net tied the set at 22.
The Buffaloes got a push kill, a tip kill and an ace for the final three points of the set to win 25-22.
Again, Manteca jumped out to the early lead using four aces for a 9-4 lead. Madrigal served up an ace and Zoey Richey, who had seven kills, put down a kill to tie the set at 10.
After a Chase side out kill, Manteca hit out of bounds and Chase put down another kill for a 14-12 Liberty lead. A Woods ace and a Chase kill opened the lead to four.
Manteca cut the lead to 21-20 before Richey got a side out kill. Manteca hit out of bounds and Devine served up two aces for a 25-20 victory.
The Buffaloes used two aces to take a 10-5 lead in the third set and opened it to seven after a tip kill and a Liberty ball into the net.
The Hawks began their comeback with a Woods side out kill. She combined with Chase for a dual block and Richey served an ace to cut the lead to three. Chase added a kill to get within two.
However, Manteca extended the lead to four, 21-17. Richey got a side out kill and Devine served an ace as Liberty cut the lead to one. After a Manteca side out, Devine got a kill on a bump return.
Then, Richey served an ace to tie the set at 22. Audrina Vasquez put down a kill and Manteca hit into the net for set point. Devine finished the set with a dump kill to give the Hawks a 25-22 win.
Three Chase side out kills helped the Hawks keep pace with Manteca, tied at five.
The Buffaloes then took an 11-7 lead and the Hawks started to come back after two side out kills from Woods.
With Richey serving, Manteca couldn’t return a serve. Then, Woods put down a kill and combined with Vasquez for a dual block. After Manteca was called for four contacts, Woods put down another kill for a 13-11 lead.
Manteca tied the set at 13, but the Hawks took the lead behind four points from Woods.
Sadie and Audrina Vasquez combined for a dual block, Sadie Vasquez put down a kill and Chase put down another for an 18-13 lead.
Manteca eventually cut the lead down to two before a Chase and Audrina Vasquez dual block. The Buffaloes closed to 23-22 before Woods sent back a Manteca attack to get to match point.
After the Buffaloes got the side out, Chase ended the match with a kill off the Manteca block for a 25-23 victory and send the Hawks to the state quarterfinals.