Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Lucia Somilleda reaches up for one of her team-high six kills in a three-set loss Tuesday to the Minarets Mustangs.
The Liberty Hawks girls volleyball team’s spirited student fan base helped lead them to leads in the first two sets, but the Minarets Mustangs came back in both sets in a three-set sweep to open the season for both teams.
Liberty led by three in the first set and were outscored 15-3 to close out the second set in 25-19, 25-20 losses before dropping the final set 25-13.
“We have a lot of veterans on this team, but not a lot of experienced players,” head coach Grant Clark said. “We were up big in both sets and we just couldn’t close it. I chalk it up to inexperience. It’s only our second match of the year. I’ve told the girls that I have high hopes for this year. They have high expectations. It’s a tough loss.”
Despite a tough defense, the Hawks were outpointed on the attacking side. Minarets recorded 23 kills in the three sets while Liberty only recorded 10, six from Lucia Somilleda. The Mustangs also took advantage of Liberty’s inexperience with six tip kills.
“Lucia crushed it the first two sets,” Clark said. “I told Jackie (Smith), our setter, to just feed her. The third set, she couldn’t get a set. I mixed up the line up and tried to do some different things to try to throw Minarets off. It didn’t work, but we haven’t tried that line-up before so we were confused. Our other outside is very young and she’s learning. She’s usually a middle. If she plays like she practices, she hits better than Lucia.”
Somilleda kept the Hawks in the first and second sets. She recorded six kills to go with six aces. Liberty recorded 13 aces and was helped by 14 missed Minarets serves. However, Minarets recorded 10 aces while Liberty missed eight serves.
Jackie Lopez recorded three aces while setter Jackie Smith recorded two. Sarah Shevenell and Audrina Vasquez each recorded three blocks.
“We have very big middles that get above the net,” Clark said. “Our outsides are active and we try to use that to our advantage. The strength of our team is our defense and scrappiness. We pride ourselves in getting the ball over the net, no matter what it takes.”
Minarets jumped out to the early 5-1 lead in the first set. After a Somilleda kill, Lopez recorded an ace and Somilleda recorded another kill to cut the lead to two.
With Minarets leading 10-6, Somilleda served up four aces in a five-point span for an 11-10 lead.
A Shevenell ace and a Somilleda kill off a diving dig gave Liberty a 14-11 lead. Minarets cut the lead to one before a Vasquez solo block.
Liberty led 18-16, but a missed serve led to five straight Minarets points for a 21-18 lead.
After a trade in side outs, Minarets closed the set with three straight points, including an ace for set point and a kill to the back corner to end it.
Liberty jumped out to the early lead in the second set. Lauren Parks and Somilleda put down kills. After a Minarets service error, Shevenell recorded a solo block by dunking the ball back to the Minarets side of the net. Lopez followed with an ace and Somilleda put down a kill for a 7-1 lead.
Although Minarets got the side outs, the Mustangs missed four of their next five serves. Meanwhile, Liberty extended the lead to seven.
Somilleda recorded an ace. Vasquez had a solo block and combined with Sam Hatfield for a dual block. Hatfield recorded a kill, Lopez served up an ace and Shevenell blocked a Minarets attack for a 17-10 lead.
Minarets scored three straight points before Shevenell put down a quick kill for the side out.
An ace by Allyx Faretta gave the Hawks a 19-13 lead. However, Minarets got the side out and scored five straight points to tie the set. A missed serve gave the Hawks a side out, but a tip kill gave the side out back to Minarets.
The Mustangs closed the set with five straight points and ended the set with a 15-3 run.
Smith served up two aces to open the third set for the Hawks. Parks recorded a solo block and Faretta served up a point for a 5-2 lead.
However, it was all Minarets after that. The Mustangs got the side out and scored six straight points. After a trade in missed serves, Minarets scored four more points for a 14-6 lead.
Hatfield put down a kill and Shevenell had another solo block to cut the lead to six.
However, a missed serve gave Minarets the side out and the Mustangs scored four more points for a 19-8 lead.
After another missed Minarets serve, Somilleda served up two aces to get the Hawks into double figures, but the damage had been done.
The Mustangs closed out the match on a 6-2 run with Liberty scoring on two Minarets missed serves for a 25-13 victory.
Liberty played in the Caruthers Raisin Harvest Tournament on Wednesday and continue the tournament on Saturday.